By Don Lowe
As someone who has lived in the Carthage area his entire life, Roger Williams couldn’t have been more ecstatic to be selected as grand marshal of the upcoming 56th Annual Maple Leaf Festival.
“It’s something not everyone’s asked to do, and just to be nominated is special,” says Williams, who retired as Carthage fire chief in 2021 after 7 years in that role and more than four decades with the town’s fire department.
“A lot of good people have been granted this honor in the past. I hope I’m as worthy as them.”
Williams understands the Maple Leaf Festival is a big deal, and he says, “It is such a great opportunity for this community and others around us to come together for a great event that has something for all ages.
“If the weather cooperates, it can be a beautiful day with some great things happening throughout the city. Even if the weather isn’t perfect, people still come out and enjoy it. It’s a great time to see people you may not have seen for a while who are back in town for the festival.”
The festival is likely an even bigger deal to Williams because he’s spent his entire life here and served his city so admirably in such a distinguished career with the Carthage Fire Department.
“You go to work on any day, and you don’t know what will happen,” Williams says. “Every day is different and at any second, anything can happen.
“But really, the friends that I made throughout the years are special. The guys you work with really are your brothers. That is something you don’t find in many jobs.”
As for what made his career worthwhile, Williams says it was “the excitement and satisfaction of being able to come to the aid of folks who might have been experiencing the worst day of their lives. Sometimes you wished you could do more, but you always knew you did your best.”
There were great challenges as a firefighter and Williams says, “There were times and events throughout the years that were very tragic and sad. But, I always found peace knowing I had done my best to make it a better situation.”
In considering the keys to such a long and successful career, Williams shares it was all about “always keeping a positive attitude and remembering to treat people with the respect they deserved.”
Williams takes pride in the work he did and says, “It’s so rewarding to have been able to serve the community where I was born and raised and have always been proud to be a part of all the time.
“Knowing people still look at me and know I did my best to keep them safe through all sorts of threats and emergencies is something I am very proud about.”
Much like with his job, Williams truly appreciates how significant the Maple Leaf Festival is to so many. “I am very proud to be a part of this because of the history behind it.
“It’s remained a shining moment in this city for many years, and I hope that continues for years to come. I rode in floats in high school and drove fire trucks many times and spent my years as fire chief as one of the lead vehicles. It’s always been a good time.”
Having a good time is what it’s all about, and Williams concludes, “I’m just glad I have been able to experience what I believe is a true Carthage tradition that is a one-of-a-kind event.”
Hometown: Lifelong resident of Carthage community
Children: Sons Danny Williams (wife Kiley) and Derek Williams (wife Abby) and daughter Melissa Santillan
Grandchildren: 10 grandchildren and 1 great-grandson
Education: Carthage Senior High Class of 1975
Occupation: Served with the Carthage Fire Department from 1978-2021; became fire chief in 2014 and served in that capacity until retiring in 2021 after a 43-year career
Fire Department Service Thoughts: “Throughout my career, I always tried to serve the community with respect and compassion.”
Maple Leaf Festival Memories: “I enjoyed many years of helping with the annual Pancake Feed on the day of the parade and representing the Fire Department in the parade. Leading the parade with the police chief and sheriff was always a highlight for me. The smiling faces and waves from folks along the way is always great.”