Ann Duke Williamson
Ann Duke Williamson
  • January 23, 1930 - July 26, 2015
  • Rocky Mount, North Carolina

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Ann Duke Williamson of Rocky Mount passed away peacefully on July 26, 2015, surrounded by loved ones. She was born January 23, 1930 at Park View Hospital in Rocky Mount to Edwin Ferebee Duke and Elizabeth Gerald Duke. Ann was preceded in death by her parents and her son William (“Bill”) Gerald Williamson. She is survived by her son Edwin Ferebee Williamson (Mary) and daughter Ann Herminjard Davis (Ricky), all of Rocky Mount; grandchildren Elizabeth Heimbach (Dave) of Denver, Colorado; Claire Herminjard of Point Reyes Station, California; Barrett Williamson of Pensacola, Florida; niece Edwina Dowdy Woodbury (Dennis McGill) of Chapel Hill; nephew John Horton Dowdy (Lil) of Wendell; numerous grand-nieces and grand-nephews; and her beloved Shih-Tzu, Louis Soleil.

Ann grew up in Rocky Mount where the family belonged to the First Baptist Church. She graduated from Rocky Mount High School in 1948 and studied Fine Arts at UNCG, before marrying the late George Wimberley Wilkinson, Jr., also of Rocky Mount. In 1961, Ann married T. P. Williamson, Jr. She earned a BA degree in French from North Carolina Wesleyan College, graduating Magna Cum Laude in 1969. Ann taught for one year at Northern Nash High School as an interim Special Education teacher. The next year she began teaching French at Rocky Mount Senior High, where she remained until her retirement in June, 1995. She formed life long relationships with many of her students.

During her teaching career, Ann served in many different capacities. Her most enduring educational experiences were the thirteen summers she spent as a leader in the American Field Study Program. During these years, she traveled the state of North Carolina in the evenings to conduct programs about study abroad and helped many of our state’s teachers plan their first trips with students. Ann believed strongly in the educational power of travel, and she led many students to places where their horizons were forever broadened. She took students to the bullfights in Madrid, to the Moulin Rouge in Paris, and to the open air opera in Rome. She loved witnessing the growth in her students as much as she enjoyed the shared experiences. For several summers, Ann directed a study program in Paris, managing groups of foreign exchange students and their teachers. She formed deep and lasting friendships with other educators, most notably the late Dr. Sarah Smith of Greensboro and the late Brother Harold Andrew of North Dakota. She also won over the hearts of many in the Basque town of Saint Jean de Luz, where she took her students to learn. A key moment in her life was the ceremony there where they named her honorary citizen and presented her with the key to the city. To Ann, there was no greater calling than teaching.

Ann also served in various capacities in many different organizations, including Delta Kappa Gamma Society International. She was extremely passionate as well about the support of her local and state library and dedicated many hours of volunteer work as an officer and member of the Friends of Braswell Memorial Library. Following the devastation of the flood of 1999, Ann worked tirelessly with several friends to collect stories from locals about their experiences. These ladies spent hours traveling back roads to record and transcribe the stories that they gathered. The result of their work was Flooded: Reflections of Hurricane Floyd (2004).

Ann was a Christian with a profound personal relationship with God and never hesitated to share with others how her faith sustained her. Passionate about many things, Ann valued relationships above all things. Nothing was ever more important than her loved ones: family, friends, and pets. She met everyone with an open heart, and she always found the good in everyone she met. Most who met or knew her were touched by her warmth, her smile, and her optimism. She served as an inspiration to many who were fighting their own battles. She will be cherished by all whose lives were enriched by the gift of knowing her. If they listen, they will hear, “five million little bells” (Le Petit Prince) that have been added to the night sky.

The family would like to express their heartfelt appreciation for the outstanding care provided during the course of the last five years to Dr. Jenee Bowman of Rocky Mount, to Dr. Francisco Castillos of Wake Forest, and more recently, to the Nash UNC Healthcare doctors and staff.

A private gathering to celebrate Ann's life will be held at a later time. In lieu of flowers or donations, Ann would want you to do something unexpectedly generous for a family member or a friend. And if none of those are around at the moment, she would tell you to befriend the next person you meet and if you listen, you will surely discover something you can do to bring a smile.