“I’m coming up on 88 years old and few people believe that,” says Bill Williams. Why don’t they? Because I have belonged to a Y somewhere since I was 12 years old.”

Bill joined his first YMCA in 1943 in Hamilton, Ontario, where he grew up and went to college. “There was little entertainment—there was no TV really until after World War II—you joined the Y for things to do.”

\Sharing a funny anecdote, Bill says, “Years ago, girls didn’t belong to the Y.” Pointing out that the men didn’t care very much about their appearance, he followed it up with: “As soon as the Y started taking women as members, the men spruced up.”

Sign Up for E-News

After coming to the U.S. for graduate school in the Midwest, Bill moved to New Jersey to take a job with Bell Labs. An avid handball player since college, he joined Y handball teams in Westfield, Scotch Plains, Plainfield and Summit. When the Madison Area YMCA started a handball team in the early 1960s, Bill joined the Madison Area YMCA. It was also closer to where he and his wife Marion lived in Chatham Township with their three children.


“Our kids learned to swim at this Y,” says Bill. “Our daughter was on the Madison Area YMCA’s synchronized swim team and also taught swimming here.”


“She wanted to get her ears pierced at about 8 or 10 years old,” says Marion. “She wrote a letter of protest to her father. She got her ears pierced but the deal was that she couldn’t stop swimming until Bill said she could stop,” she says with a laugh. “And, she still swims today,” says Bill. Their daughter is a professor at the University of Toronto Medical School.


The Williams family have had lots of Y involvement over the years. They used to do family swim at the Y—and then all pile into Chitty Chitty Bang Bang–the affectionate moniker for their car—to go out for pancakes. Long-time advocates and donors to the Madison Area YMCA’s Annual Campaign, the family also bought a brick during the Y’s Plan 2000 campaign that has “Williams Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” inscribed on it. It can be found at the walkway near the Y’s entrance. 


The family regularly visited the Frost Valley YMCA in New York’s Catskill Mountains where families can spend time away together, and growing up the kids met their cousins at Frost Valley for summer camp. Bill and Marion’s two sons also went to Y summer camps that took place in the Watchung Reservation and Montreal among other places.   


The couple has 11 grandchildren of which four live near them in Chatham. “Our grandchildren loved Kids Central when they were little,” says Marion, who would take them to play.


Bill and Marion say that regular exercise has played a factor in keeping them healthy. Bill spends 20-30 minutes on the treadmill three days per week. Marion rows and lifts weights. 


“We’ve had a lot to do with the Y over the years,” observes Bill. “And the Y has kept me from falling apart.”