Jun. 24—In March, LOEL Senior Center president Tracy Williams fell ill with what she thought was a bout of food poisoning. The illness passed within a day or so, her nephew Greg Williams said, but the symptoms reappeared in early May.
Greg Williams took his aunt to the hospital on May 14 when the symptoms wouldn't subside, and doctors diagnosed her with stage four colon cancer.
"From then on she just kind of went downhill," Greg Williams said. "She started chemotherapy immediately, completed one round, which kind of slowed it down. But the doctors said it wasn't really doing anything to stop it."
Tracy Williams passed away last Friday at the age of 54.
"It was quick, sudden," Greg Williams said. "It's not something anybody expects."
Born in San Jose, Tracy Williams moved to Lodi at a young age with her family and graduated from Lodi High School in 1985.
She earned an associate's degree in criminal justice from Delta College in 1988 and attended California State University, Stanislaus.
Following college, she worked at Lodi Memorial Hospital from 1990 to 2000 in purchasing and cost accounting before working at the News-Sentinel for a little more than a year as an administrative assistant. She moved on to the LOEL Center as a site coordinator before becoming its executive director in 2004.
"She was just a great person," Greg Williams said. "She loved family very much, devoted to her mother and just admired my two little boys. She always made sure everyone had everything they possibly needed."
Outside of work, Greg Williams said his aunt loved to go on vacations, especially to the ocean, and the family would take several trips to Santa Cruz over the years.
Just before the COVID-19 pandemic forced everyone to remain at home, he said his aunt spent a week with them in Los Angeles, where the family visited Universal Studios.
Tracy Williams loved being with her nephew's two boys, Brayden and Bradley, having them spend the night on many a weekend, Greg Williams said, and cheering them on at youth sports games such as baseball and basketball.
In a 2006 News-Sentinel article about her commitment to civic engagement, Tracy Williams said community involvement helped her keep up with what was going on in Lodi.
She served the Lodi Police Department in crime prevention for a number of years and chaired the Lodi Police Foundation, raising $72,000 in funds so the department could purchase a bomb squad robot, as well as $200,000 for its Ballistics Armored Tactical Transport, also known as the BATT.
She was involved with National Night Out every year, even donning the McGruff Crime Dog costume on several occasions, and coached the police department's Lodi Junior Giants baseball team with her nephew.
Last year, she helped the Lodi Fire Department form its own foundation and served as a board member, helping initiate fundraising efforts for a memorial outside the main fire station on Elm Street.
"Tracy was wonderful," Police Chief Sierra Brucia said. "Not only was she a pillar in the community and involved in a lot of things, she was my friend. She was a member of Lodi Sunrise Rotary, and she actually sponsored me and brought me into Rotary."
Brucia said Tracy Williams would accompany his family on several outings such as the Blue and Brews concerts, the Downtown Lodi Wine Stroll or the Wine and Chocolate Festival at Lodi Lake. He recalled at least one year when she purchased tickets to the Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast at Lodi Lake on July 4 and invited his family along.
"She had so many interests and skills," he said. 'She was always willing to help everyone with anything you needed. She was someone special."
Williams was an associate member of the Lodi Grape Festival, United Way volunteer; board member for the Lodi Memorial Hospital Foundation; chairwoman of Walk for the Health of It; a Lodi High School Flame Foundation member and president; member of the Lodi Lions Club; chairwoman of the Lodi Junior Chamber of Commerce; chairwoman of Summerfest; member of the Lodi Woman's Club; and member of the Centennial Task Force for the City of Lodi, among others.
"She always had her hand in something, and she was always active," Brucia said. "I'm very grateful for the time my family and I had with her. It's a huge loss for the community."
During her time at the LOEL Center, Williams helped start new social and educational activities for seniors; expanded the Meals on Wheels program; increased fundraising events; and continued to work on providing low-cost housing for seniors.
During the pandemic, she worked with the City of Lodi and local restaurants to bring the Great Plates program to seniors, which provided three hot meals for homebound older residents on a daily basis.
Marjory Schrenk, the center's financial administrator, said Williams was her partner-in-crime and that the two were "attached at the hip," as they not only attended every LOEL event, but were good friends when not at work.
"Seniors were her passion," Schrenk said. "She always rallied behind them because they were the silent and forgotten part of our community. They don't have a voice, and someone has to speak up for them. We have to care for them and feed them, and she constantly looked for ways to do that."
Schrenk said when she learned Tracy Williams had passed away, it felt like a punch to the stomach. While she knew her friend and colleague had been feeling worse since her diagnosis, Schrenk said her death was something nobody ever expects to happen.
"The center will be moving forward, just like Tracy would have wanted," she said. "We're going to keep her progress going, the board and staff are all in this to make it work out, and we'll continue in a bigger and better fashion, all in her name and honor."
Greg Williams said his aunt loved Lodi and her family, noting she was there for the birth of his children, and was able to have members of both the police and fire departments drive by the house on their birthdays. He said there were not enough words to describe the kind of woman he knew.
"She was just very devoted to family," he said. "She pretty much raised me from a little boy to an adult, and without her influence, I wouldn't be the person I am today."