Updated: Aug 11, 2018
By Carolyn Wright for Gwinnett Citizen--
I am always amazed by an artist or individual’s creative spirit, how they come to create what they create, to do what they do and have the courage to share it with others. I had the pleasure of meeting a delightful gentleman, Mr. Robert “Ray” ‘Pew Wee” Williams, Sr., a couple of years ago. Ray is a longtime resident of Lawrenceville and at the time we met, he was celebrating his 90th birthday. His daughter Ann Tucker, approached me about featuring some birdhouses Mr. Ray had made at The LONA Gallery as a birthday surprise for him. Since none of his birdhouses had ever been officially shown or displayed in public, Ann thought it would be a great way to surprise her dad on such a milestone occasion as his 90th birthday. It was all to be a complete surprise for Ray and his “show opening” would be attended by members of his very large extended family on a lovely Sunday afternoon.
Of course, I agreed! How could I deny a loving daughter the chance to surprise her soon to be 90 year old dad! I was not sure what to expect, but when the birdhouses arrived, they were simply amazing!Each one was of substantial size, had its own unique theme, was exquisitely decorated, with brilliant colors and baubles and each had a spiritual theme. What I learned is that Ray designs and constructs the houses and his daughter Ann helps with the decoration. Her goal, she says is to “help my Dad and to make the birdhouses representative of my love for him and God’s love for us all”. It is a great collaborative effort of a father and daughter.
Over the last couple of years, I have kept in touch with Ann and Mr. Williams and have come to learn more about the man behind the birdhouses. It’s always enlightening to learn what drives a creative person to create. Ray was born April 22, 1924. His first exposure to woodworking came about watching his uncle and grandfather make baskets and other wood items for the community, so you might say Ray has sawdust in his blood.
Ray, an army veteran, was wounded in service to our country. He spent time in California, the Philippines and Texas where he performed several different jobs during his tour of duty. One of the most rewarding he relates, “was being trained to work as a medic, helping other wounded soldiers.” After the army, Ray trained for and became a short order cook, spent time working at a table factory where he further honed his woodworking skills and retired from a position in the janitorial service industry. Ray married Myrtle King and together they raised two boys (Robert Ray Jr. and Jeffrey Boyd) and two girls (Mary Evelyn and Ann). Ann tells me her dad made several pieces of furniture, including a stereo cabinet when she was a young girl. However, Ray says he was “too busy raising a family to remember much about his wood projects at that time.”
It was not until 2003, after his retirement and “boredom set in” that Mr. Williams decided to dust off his woodworking tools and get busy making birdhouses!
Upon seeing his handiwork, Ann decided she would help her dad decorate the houses. Her first efforts she says, were not her best. However, she has worked diligently, praying for guidance before starting to decorate each birdhouse and now she is happy with the results. Ann says “God is in this” and 33 amazing birdhouses later, I would have to agree!