Stacey Williams dedicated his life to coaching Gainesville youth, serving his community and loving his family.
Williams died Jan. 4 due to COVID-19 complications. He was 53.
He spent 25 years coaching little league football, most recently at Eastside High School with the Rattlers Youth Football program. He also took pride in his work at LifeSouth Community Blood Bank in Gainesville.
Known as “Coach” by most and “Hog” by hometown friends and family, Williams was born and raised in Hawthorne. He was a sports fan from the start, playing basketball and football at Hawthorne High School until he graduated in 1986. He loved to watch the Gators and the Cowboys play, often coaching from behind the TV screen.
Above all else, Williams was a family man. Hosting family gatherings, driving last in line, to camping trips and DJing at Christmas parties, everyone agreed that family was incredibly important to him.
One thing Williams did best was give back to his community, and his job at the LifeSouth blood bank was something he loved, said Shakenya Ivey, a 40-year-old close family friend who called Williams her “bonus brother.”
“He was a big inspiration at LifeSouth,” Ivey said. “He used to love to volunteer and host the toy drive. That was something he looked forward to every year.”
The 53-year-old began his lifetime work as a coach and mentor for youth in Hawthorne and then moved to Gainesville and joined the Baby Gators, a little league football team as a coach. He worked with them for several years before ending up with the Rattlers.
His wife, Latraile Williams, said he always had a passion for coaching and the wisdom needed to do it. Even as a high school athlete watching from the stands he would draw up plays and call out directions.
Stacey’s true love for coaching stemmed from his strong reverence for the youth.
“He knew the youth was our future, and he loved being out there with them,” Latraile said. “He really got a thrill from seeing that he could use his knowledge to help someone else.”
Kelitha Williams Rainer, his 43-year-old niece, said Stacey’s coaching went beyond just making game plays. She said parents would explain how Stacey mentored their children and helped them through school.
“He was the type that wanted the kids to be all around successful, not only on the field, but in school and being a great community member as well,” Williams Rainer said. “He really strived to make sure the whole child was being great.”
Wendell Martin, Stacey’s uncle, said that coaching was Stacey’s way of giving back to the community. Martin, having seen Stacey coach his son, said he was a firm but fair coach.
“He wanted to see these children succeed at their best level,” Martin said. “Was he hard on them? Yes he were, but he gave them exactly what they needed at that point in their lives to push them to believe that they could succeed.”
Stacey was also active in his church community, working as a praised ministry technician at the H.O.M.E Church in Hawthorne, Martin said. He loved the job because he was able to greet everyone at the door, he added.
“If you looked at that smile you couldn’t help but be happy,” Martin said. “So when you walked in the door of our church you felt love because he was greeting you with love.”
Stacey’s loss will be felt by the community, and his family believes Stacey loved everyone.
“He just wanted people to love each other,” Latraile said. “He wanted people to help one another and just keep a positive outlook and a positive mind.”
Contact Lucille Lannigan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LucilleLannigan.
Lucy is a senior journalism major and the metro editor for The Alligator. She has previously served as a news assistant and the East Gainesville reporter for the metro desk as well as the health and environment reporter on the university desk. When she’s not doing journalism you can find her painting or spending time outside.