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Published: Saturday, 7/10/2004

Fire chief pursued funding

JEROME, Mich. - Marvin J. Williams, 44, the fire chief for 10 1/2 years of Hillsdale County's Somerset Township who was known for seeking grants that could pay for firefighting and rescue equipment, died of cancer Wednesday in Hillsdale Community Health Center.

Chief Williams was a member of the volunteer department for 21 years.

He was self-taught at grant writing, said Jeremiah Hodshire, a Hillsdale County undersheriff. Yet Chief Williams pursued federal and state funding sources and solicited community and hospital foundations for support.

"He was a very aggressive grant writer," Mr. Hodshire said. "He could research grants and find what were the latest and greatest grants.

"He was really community-minded, first and foremost with saving lives," he said. "He transferred that to making sure that his department had top-notch equipment."

Chief Williams often worked 40 hours a week in the volunteer position.

"He always gave over and above," said his wife, Char, who is a firefighter, medical first responder, and dispatcher. "That was just his way as he got committed to something. If he could save someone's house or someone's life, he was always there."

As a paramedic and firefighter, he saw serious injury, even death, but he managed to avoid burnout - and wanted to make sure that others would, too. He made debriefings routine, long before the practice was in vogue among fire and rescue departments.

"He wanted to make sure no one got left out and that [everyone had] someone they could talk to," his wife said.

Chief Williams even had a chaplain on the department.

"He tried to take care of [department members] from every angle," his wife said.

Chief Williams was a member of the Hillsdale County Fire Chiefs Association and was a past treasurer of the Hillsdale County Fireman's Association. He was a former member of the Addison Fire Department and Emergency Medical Service.

He was a member of the county's 911 board and served on a board at the county health center that evaluated its finances, Mr. Hodshire said.

Chief Williams was a member of the Bible Baptist Church in North Adams, Mich.

He was born in Fostoria and grew up in Toledo. He attended Libbey High School. The family moved to Hillsdale County his senior year, and he was a graduate of Reading High School.

He worked for the Michigan Department of Corrections for 16 years, mostly at the forensic center in Saline, until injury forced his retirement in 1996.

Surviving are his wife, Charlene; daughters, Kelly Jo and Angela Mae Williams; parents, Melvin and Darlene Williams; brothers, Earl and Robert Williams, and sister, Darla Delaney.

The body will be in the Kurtz Mortuary, Hillsdale, after noon Monday. Services will be at 11 a.m. Tuesday in Hillsdale Assembly of God Church.

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