This Christmas, the Revs. Richard and Donna Williams of Johnstown will not only celebrate the birth of Jesus, but the life of a grandson who drowned last month while playing at a lake near his Maryland home.
Jayden Williams, 5, who had lived in Johnstown before moving in the summer to the Washington, D.C., suburb of Waldorf, Md., died Nov. 3 when he fell into the overflow of a lake.
Jayden was playing with eight other boys near their condominium complex when they decided to walk across a narrow causeway at the breast of the lake, said Richard Williams.
Jayden slipped and fell into the water, he said.
“Although he is gone, we are celebrating his life and what he meant to people,” said Richard Williams, who along with his wife, helped to raise Jayden while Jayden’s mother, Kristin, who also is the Williamses daughter, worked as a nurse in Waldorf.
Kristin, who has a bachelor’s degree in nursing, went to Waldorf to advance her nursing career and to provide more opportunities for Jayden and her two other children, Spencer 3, and Amir, 7, he said.
She did not take Jayden with her when she moved in 2012 because she wanted him to finish out the school year at East Side Elementary School.
“He (Jayden) touched many peoples’ lives while he was living, and a lot more when he died,” he said.
“Jayden was a handsome, confident, jubilant, caring and loving young man.”
More than 200 family members and friends attended Jayden’s funeral at Shiloh Baptist Church in Johnstown on Nov. 9, he said.
In response to the love that Jayden showed during his life, people responded in-kind in various ways, he said.
A website was built for Jayden with people honoring his life by leaving their condolences and making donations to help the family.
Turner’s All-Stars Cheerleaders, a squad that their daughter, Kristin, had coached, had shopping bags bearing Jayden’s likeness made. The bags were passed around at a cheerleading tournament to collect donations to help the family, he said.
The teaching staff at East Side Elementary School; the State Correctional Institution-Laurel Highlands, where Donna Williams is a nurse; the Waldorf police; and individuals also made donations, he said.
The principal from Jayden’s elementary school in Waldorf as well as families from the condominium where Jayden lived also attended the funeral, he said.
“He generated so much love, compassion and fellowship among people who may never have sat down to fellowship together,” he said.
A Christmas tree has been erected in Jayden’s memory at the Williamses home.
“Although tears may be shed because of his death, laughter and love will flow in remembrance of his life,” said Richard Williams, who, along with his wife, serve parishioners at Heavenly Sent Ministries, Conemaugh.
Frank Sojak is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ FrankNews10.