Hundreds of mourners are expected to gather Wednesday at Hobbs Funeral Home in South Portland to honor Robert Williams, a dedicated firefighter and retired lieutenant of the South Portland Fire Department who died Saturday after a two-year fight against cancer. He was 69.
Mr. Williams started volunteering as a firefighter in Cape Elizabeth at age 16. He later joined the South Portland Fire Department as a firefighter. He served 25 years with the department, retiring as a lieutenant in 1990. He continued to volunteer with the Cape Elizabeth Fire Department and served as captain for more than 10 years.
South Portland Fire Chief Kevin Guimond on Tuesday remembered Williams as a dedicated firefighter who made time to teach young firefighters the ropes.
“He was an awfully nice man,” Guimond said. “I went to many serious fires with him and he would take the time to teach you. He was a good teacher and he had a lot of street experience.”
Mr. Williams was respected in both the department and the community.
He was married to Jean Williams for 47 years. The couple lived in South Portland, where they raised three children. His daughter Raelyn Reny died in 2010 after a 17-year battle with cancer. She was 32. He is survived by his wife and daughters, Shelly Trafford of Scarborough and Robyn Williams Stanley of South Portland.
On Tuesday, the sisters described a father who opened his home to their friends and cheered them on at games. He was always involved in some capacity as either a coach or umpire, said Trafford, his oldest daughter.
“He was always at our games,” she said. “It makes me appreciate what I had. He was a role model. … He was a one-of-a-kind dad. I was the boy he never had, seriously. I was taught to change my own oil and pump gas.”
Stanley reminisced about the summers the family spent at their camp on Sebago Lake.
“He loved sitting outside watching us parent our kids and being around the water,” Stanley said. “He loved the family life. He was a hands-on grandfather. He loved all the kids, five grandsons and a granddaughter. He loved watching them. He went to all their sporting events.”
Mr. Williams was diagnosed with esophageal cancer two years ago. He responded well to treatment.
“We figured he had less than six months, so the fact that we got this extra time means a lot to us,” said Stanley. “I’ll miss his smile and hugs. His hugs felt like they could cure anything.”
The fire departments in South Portland and Cape Elizabeth are providing a color guard and honor guard for Williams’ services. The visiting hours will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Hobbs Funeral Home, 230 Cottage Road, South Portland. A Mass will be celebrated at 11a.m. Thursday at Holy Cross Catholic Church in South Portland. Interment will follow at Brooklawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Portland.
Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at: