The lives and family of Wilma Williams and her two daughters, Mozella and Kaleigh, 12 and 13, will be celebrated on the north campus of Palm Coast United Methodist Church Saturday at 11 a.m. in a drive-in service that will combine the requirements of social distancing with the ceremonial spirit of the solemn occasion.
The service is being organized by the daughters’ older sister, Faith Lyons, of Atlanta, their father Tyrone Williams, Pastor Kevin James of Palm Coast United, and the school district’s Earl Johnson, among others.
“She’s been a joy to work with in the midst of this heavy grief and sorrow, so we’re working with her extremely well, along with her father, and our prayers go out to them,” James said. The drive-in pavilion is at 6500 Belle Terre Parkway in Palm Coast.
“Mr. Tager and I reached out to the father and other relatives on Monday, looking at what the superintendent and we could provide the family from the district’s perspective,” Johnson said, referring to Jim Tager, the superintendent. He also contacted James. “It’s a very difficult time not only for the family but for the children in the Fagler schools family. A lot of people are struggling with that, because the family is well known in our community.”
Johnson himself knows that sort of grief first-hand. He’s still grieving from the loss of his sister in a car crash in the county just months ago, and could empathize with the girls’ father. “He’s in that first stage still, shock, you can’t blame him,” Johnson said, recalling his loss. “But you lose your daughters and your wife, that is difficult and unbelievable. It is unimaginable, unimaginable, the grief he and his family are going through at this time.”
The Williams trio was driving home from visiting the girls’ grandmother in San Mateo in Putnam County last Friday (April 17). They were in their Kia on State Road 100, driving normally on an unlit stretch of State Road 100 in Andalusia, when Thomas Patrick Riley, 62, of San Mateo, who was driving a pick-up truck, crossed the yellow line and crashed the pick-up into the Kia. The vehicles burst into flames. All the victims were unrecognizable.
Riley had been drinking.
According to a Florida Highway Patrol investigator, Riley had gone to visit a friend in Orlando that morning and was supposed to spend the night there. He changed his mind, and drove home. The medical examiner smelled alcohol on his body.
The girls had attended Belle Terre Elementary and Indian Trails Middle School.
The service, Pastor James said, is “an opportunity for us to extend our condolences as well as ministry to the family,” he said. Referring to the coronavirus emergency, he said, “because of the current new normal, they needed a facility where family members and friends could remain in their cars and have a dignified memorial service and celebration of life. So we’re able to offer that opportunity, working with the Sanctuary Funeral Home and the local sheriff’s department and the school district office as well.”
James anticipates some 200 cars or more, with room for overflow. There’ll be live music–the musicians will social distance–and Palm Coast United’s band director.
Lyons posted details of the service on her Facebook page. “We have worked tirelessly to ensure that we give our Three Angels the celebration of life they deserve, while recognizing we are in unprecedented times,” she wrote, asking congregants to follow guidelines for safety.
“All guest are asked to remain at your vehicles for the entire duration of the service,” Lyons wrote. “Once you arrive the gate attendants will direct your vehicle to your parking location. All vehicles must park facing the stage location. Guest must remain at your vehicle at all times. The service will be broadcast through your radio on station 101.5. FM. We ask that vehicles have at least two or more occupants. Additionally, we understand that many can not travel at this time and would like to be in attendance.” The service will be viewable live here or through the church’s YouTube channel.
“We can not express how thankful we are for the outpouring of love and support that each and everyone of you has shown,” Lyons wrote, “and for that reason we have put great thought and consideration into this service so we may all celebrate the lives of our Three Angels together. It will truly be a ‘one of a kind service for one of a kind people!’ We love you and hope to see you all Saturday.”
A memorial fund for the Williams family has been set up here.