Williams smiling with a floral print shirt and matching earings
Sara Williams. Courtesy of her family

Sara (Sally) Williams, loving wife of George A. Williams, Jr., died July 18, 2023, surrounded by family.

Sally was a force of nature whose extraordinary life left a positive impression on all who knew her. She was born on April 17, 1934, in Chicago, Illinois, to Charles and Elvera Wilson and grew up alongside her siblings: Roger, Janet and Chuck. 

After she obtained a B.S. from the University of Illinois, she relocated to San Francisco with her sister Janet, to attend graduate school at UC Berkeley. She met her future husband, George in San Francisco at a singles event at Grace Cathedral and they were married in 1958 in Chicago, Illinois.

She and George shared a passion for adventure, traveling westward through Asia and the Middle East en route to Cambridge, Massachusetts (yes — west to get east!). She continued to work to support the family and audited classes at Harvard while George got his LLM. 

Returning to San Francisco in 1969, they raised their children in the Haight-Ashbury, while she continued her wide-ranging career. She co-founded and served as executive director of The Committee on Children’s Television; served on the boards of Mattel and Planned Parenthood; was an adjunct professor at San Francisco State University and paralegal at Heller Ehrman; and then returned to her original passion of teaching. She nurtured and instilled in her family a deep curiosity about the world.

The 1990s brought more adventure living abroad, and she continued to apply her talents in community service as George worked as a consultant for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). While in Bratislava, Slovakia, she guided the Slovakian delegation of Business and Professional Women at the United Nations, and wrote a guide for expatriates: “Bratislava Inside and Out.” Later she worked as a community liaison officer when they transferred to Almaty, Kazakhstan.

On their return to the U.S., they settled in Berkeley, and she continued to share her passion for travel, culture, cooking, architecture and art with those she loved. Her advocacy for causes close to her heart never waned, and she persisted in her pursuits, writing, learning, and teaching. She was a member of the Berkeley Community Health Commission and the Berkeley Telecommunications Task Force, among others. She was an active member of the Stanford Women’s Club of the East Bay travel club and book group, and she cherished her friendships with members. She furthered understanding of her Swedish roots, authoring Cultural Influences on Swedish History and giving presentations. She was still researching and writing family history to the end.

Sally embodied a strong maternal presence that extended far beyond her immediate kin. Her inclusive concept of family stretched across boundaries, encompassing a diverse array of individuals who were touched by her warmth, wisdom and Sally-isms.  She had an uncanny ability to meet perfect strangers who, within five minutes, would tell her their entire life stories and become instant friends. She was politically active, ahead of her time on many social issues that made a difference in peoples’ lives, and was an independent woman who led and taught by example. 

She is survived by her sister Janet Simmons and children: Peter (Rebecca) Williams, Jennifer (Shawn) Peters, Maria (Mike Lough) Williams, Erica (Alan) Orcharton; grandchildren Peter, Jr., and Steven Williams; Ashley and Johnna Peters; and Georgia Orcharton, and great grandchild Peter Williams, III. Marc and Claude Imbault are beloved family members as are her step-grandchildren, Eric and Michael (Darya) Lough, and step-great-grandchildren Kuper and Artemis.

"*" indicates required fields

See an error that needs correcting? Have a tip, question or suggestion? Drop us a line.