Monthly Archives: February 2014

Hal Williams: Husband, Father, Granddad

Unfortunately this has been a very difficult week for my family. We lost our leader, mentor and friend. My Granddad was a remarkable man. I miss him dearly. The following obituary was written by his son, my Dad, in his honor. 

1255215_profile_picHal Lawson Williams, 88, died Tuesday, Feb. 25, at Hospice of Rockingham County after a three-year battle with cancer.

Born Aug. 1, 1925, to Gordon and Cassie Williams, he grew up in rural Rockingham and Caswell counties during the Depression-era hard times. He changed schools often but developed a love for books and adventure. He once worked as an usher for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus in Sarasota, Fla., but his mother’s protestations eventually persuaded him to come home.

Hal’s youthful endeavors came to an end when he was drafted into the Army in January 1944 and sent to Camp Croft, S.C., where he endured 17 weeks of basic infantry and anti-tank training. He volunteered for jump school at Fort Benning, Ga., and made the qualifying parachute jumps and then volunteered for Riggers School, thinking that packing parachutes would be safer. But the Army instead sent him to a school where he learned Morse code messaging and radio communications. Eventually he was shipped as a replacement to England and assigned to the 194th Glider Infantry of the 17th Airborne Division.

That got him into the fight in Bastogne, Belgium, and eventually into the Battle of the Bulge with the 517th Signal Company. Hal said he was lucky that he was helping set up message centers, because the Germans inflicted heavy casualties on the front-line troops, and as he wrote in a memoir, he “witnessed the indescribable horrors of warfare.” He was discharged in January 1946, sent back to Fort Bragg and hitchhiked home.
After the war, he went to work for Hastings Furniture Co. in Reidsville and enrolled in Elon College to study business. In 1950, he married Woman’s College student Merle Elizabeth Howe, and they embarked on a loving relationship that kept them together for 64 years. Hal’s successful business career took off after he managed one in a chain of State Furniture stores in downtown Reidsville, and the Winston-Salem based company promoted him to general manager of all the stores, including one on Elm Street in Greensboro.

In 1972, he got a chance to operate his own business, Riverview Furniture and Interiors, in Durham. The retail store survived the trend of big-box furniture marketing that forced many independent stores in the Triangle area to fail. Hal knew what to buy at the High Point Market (he never missed attending one) and how to manage inventory, and he worked hard to cultivate repeat customers. Merle would later join the business as an interior decorating consultant and accessory buyer. They retired to Reidsville in 2006 after Hal sold the store, with the stipulation that the buyer would keep all of his employees.

When Hal wasn’t working in his store, he enjoyed his family, which included three sons. He helped coach their Little League teams and took them on vacation trips to games in Washington and Baltimore. He became an avid Baltimore Orioles fan and followed the team by watching every TV game he could in his retirement years. He also loved ACC basketball, and after all those years in Durham, Duke became his favorite team.

During retirement he also became interested in U.S. foreign policy, paying special attention to the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq, a move he did not favor. He did extensive reading on the subject and wrote a paper about the neoconservatives who pushed for the war.

Throughout his life, Hal attended church faithfully and was a member of Woodmont Methodist in Reidsville. He was a compassionate man who reached out to the underprivileged. It is said that he never met a stranger. His sense of humor and desire to communicate with people and show interest in their lives played a large role in his business success.

Hal is survived by his wife, Merle Elizabeth Williams of the home; sons, Bob Williams of Greensboro and Steve Williams and wife Mary Lynn of Reidsville; grandchildren, Brooks Williams and wife Melissa of Whitsett; Kellie DeLapp and husband Jeremy of Reidsville; Garrett Williams and wife Becca of Matthews; Neal Williams and wife Anna of Astoria, N.Y.
Hal had four great-grandchildren, Ella Kate and Kassie Mae DeLapp of Reidsville, Carolina Brooke Williams of Whitsett and Benjamin Reid Williams of Matthews.

He was preceded in death by a son, David Reid Williams, and a brother, Lawrence Williams.

Services will be at 11 a.m. Friday at Woodmont Methodist Church. Following that, there will be a private burial ceremony at Reidlawn Cemetery. The Rev. Morris Brown will officiate the services.

The family welcomes friends to join them from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Wilkerson Funeral Home in Reidsville and other times at the home.

Memorials may be made in Hal’s memory to Woodmont Methodist Church and The Salvation Army.

The family would like to thank the staffs of Moses Cone Annie Penn Hospital and Hospice of Rockingham County for their dedicated services and kindness during Hal’s final days and the many health care professionals who attended to his long-term treatment.

Online condolences can be made at

Beck’s Morning Phase

Beck Morning PhaseOn February 24th Beck will release his 12th studio album, Morning Phase. The chameleonic singer has undergone yet another sea change and turns in an effort that is far different from his last major release, Modern Guilt. That album had a fun bounce that surprised summer audiences with carefree jams that tapped into the singer’s urgent roots. Morning Phase, however, is a much more reflective album that plays on the artist’s quieter sensibilities.

Thanks to iTunes Radio’s first play stream, I have enjoyed listening to the album as I cut across the winding back roads that make up my morning commute. The music, like the sun that cuts through the pine trees on my way to work, glimmers and shimmers in beautifully layered instrumentation and bright, floating vocals. Every musical touch is full of well thought out nuance. From the lift of orchestral strings to the quiet strum of acoustic guitar, the album has a quiet, apparitional feel that relaxes the spirit. The lyrics are well constructed and show flashes of Beck’s inventive flair but they do not impose themselves on you like some of the artist’s other works. This album is all about the sum of its parts and while there are standout tracks, like “Blackbird Chain” and “Wave”, the record is best enjoyed in its entirety.

Fans not familiar with Beck’s break up masterpiece, Sea Change, may experience surprise when listening to the mature vocal performance that connects all the tracks together. While it’s not quite as shocking as Bob Dylan’s non-nasal country croon on Nashville Skyline, it does take the listener aback if they are expecting an Odelay style folk-rap repeat.   The album, however, will grow on you as each track reveals something new with repeat listening.

Morning Phase may very well make a lot of Best of 2014 lists and it is an early favorite to make Formulate Infinity’s top albums rundown at year’s end. The record also leaves me hoping that after 6 years of exiled experimentation, Beck is ready to go through yet another fruitful period of producing great and varied music. Only time will tell. One thing is certain, his next album will sound nothing like Morning Phase. Until then, enjoy.

The NFL Needs to Grow Up

Once upon a time, American society lagged behind the cultural changes that were  brokered by those who played our sports. For instance, Jackie Robinson’s play with his Dodger teammates made integration more tangible. His breaking of MLB’s racial barrier also predated Brown v. Board of Education by 7 years. In similar fashion, Billie Jean King’s victory over Bobby Riggs in 1973 signaled that the equal treatment of women was long overdue. Since her resounding win, women now pursue happiness in ways that were once only afforded to men. They have proven, what we all should have already known, that women are more than capable of taking on everything from heading a household to gaveling the House of Representatives to order.

SI Michael Sam coverNow a days, it feels like our society is forcing American sport to change.  Most notably, the old chauvinist order of the NFL is being called to task.  While I wrote extensively about the outcome of football’s recent playoff rounds, those playoffs will have little consequence compared to what will take place this offseason.  From Michael Sam’s announcement on his own sexuality to the findings of the Wells report on bullying, the NFL’s locker room is about to take on its most significant change since it integrated in 1947. This change is long over due. While there are many issues to which Americans disagree, sportsmanship and respectful treatment of others is something we are all taught from an early age. It makes since that the very same values we learn in Little League should be upheld in professional locker rooms.

Michael Sam has shown considerable bravery in being upfront about his personal life. While it is none of our business, I appreciate the risk he is taking. This coupled with the fact that most of our society now accepts his declaration as a mere fact of life, should signal to the sports world that the times they are a-changin’.

Point blank, the NFL needs to grow up. While everyone has the right to be intolerant in their private life, our expectations in public life are different. We all show up to work and school and expect to be treated fairly. The notion of fair treatment is a hallmark of American society and should be extended to every workplace environment. Even if that workplace environment takes place in the knuckle dragging context of the NFL.

Many sports commentators, however, have wondered how professional football would handle the news. Many have opined that the locker room was not ready and worried about how other players might react. Many of the same concerns were leveled against African American players and female reporters, as if the football locker room was some kind of sacred sanctuary that should be allowed to exist outside the norms of our society. Truth be told if a locker room cannot handle the inclusion of Michael Sam, it is likely no where close to being able to handle the adversity that faces any championship team. Besides, we all know that it can be done, because Sam and his Missouri teammates have already done it.

The best commentary on why the NFL should change has come from Texas sports anchor, Dale Hansen. His YouTube video has gone viral and serves as a great takedown of those who say the NFL is not ready.

In many respects, it is a good thing that the Wells Report on bullying came out this week. It shows, without a doubt, that NFL locker room culture needs to evolve. While the Miami Dolphins locker room harassment detailed in the report may be an outlier, it does put teams around the league on notice that the “traditional” values of hazing will no longer be accepted. With the worst case scenario already outed, the league can move forward in their effort to clean up some of the uglier aspects of the sport.

Most aspects of American society have already done this in regards to public life. We now have many symbolic markers signaling our progressive move toward inclusiveness. For those that may object on religious grounds, I take comfort in what one of the Missouri students says in the YouTube video below. In a show of support for Michael Sam, she simply states “God is Love.” Love for one another and our differences is what has brought this nation together. Unfortunately, our differences can also tear us apart. Here’s hoping that the former is true and that the NFL, and its players, grows up just a little bit and embraces what makes the American experience so unique.

The Big Recommit

Since the devastatingly boring Super Bowl, the pages of Formulate Infinity have been silent. That is about to change, starting with this post on re-commitment.

I’m not sure if it was the birth of my first baby, that I am turning 34 this year, or that  I am just a prime target for self-inflicted punishment. Maybe it was watching Pearl Jam kick out the jams in Charlotte without compromise. My generation’s musical representatives reconnecting me to my youthful hopes and aspirations. Whatever the source of inspiration, sometime in early November I decided to recommit myself to some lifelong interests.  These pursuits include everything from writing (this blog) to playing music again.

For the average person, there are major hurdles to pursuing what you enjoy. The first hurdle is economic. America has one of the most productive work forces on this earth because we commit ourselves to long hours to get the job done.  I often find my work bleeding into the time I spend at home. Technology has become mobile and spread a “work from anywhere” ethos. This has only made the problem more pervasive. That, and the fact that most of us now need two jobs to survive, has put many folk’s lifelong interests and hobbies on hold.

I will always work in the field of public education because I believe in the intrinsic value of working for the public good. Our society, however, has yet to reward our hard-working teachers monetarily for the sacrifices they make in the name of raising the nation’s children. When I am not busy helping these teachers use technology in their classrooms, I am busy teaching two online classes from home. I truly enjoy teaching children across our great state but sometimes I wish the money I make from doing it wasn’t so necessary.

The second major hurdle is life itself. Things happen that derail our commitments. A family member gets sick. A friend in need demands our attention. We sacrifice our time to help others. I have experienced this with my grandfather. It is way more important to live life than write about it. I have spent the last several weekends visiting him and praying for him to recover from a devastating fall. While doing this, I feel an intense guilt that I am spending more time with my family because of tragedy. We have all rallied in the name of helping both my grandparents. I love my family dearly and it will be a long time before I let work and other life pursuits push them aside. That is a young man’s move. Now that I have a family of my own, I know the proper life order of things.

Hurdles, like the one’s I mentioned above, aren’t necessarily excuses but they can veer us off the path we’ve paved for ourselves when it comes to pursuing self-imposed goals.  For that reason, I think it is much harder to lose track of those pursuits if you put them in writing. It is one of the main reasons I started this blog. For this reason, I am listing the things I want to continue to work on and improve upon as the year 2014 moves forward.

Here it is writing:

  1. Family: First and foremost, I commit myself to being a family man. The sharing of baby boy with family and friends has been one of life’s great rewards. Next to meeting and marrying my one true love, there is nothing compared to the feeling I get when holding our new bundle of joy. I want to make sure I honor these life blessings by calling, visiting and hugging those I love more often.
  2. Health: If I am truly committed to my family, then it is important that I also recommit myself to healthy living. While I have always been a fairly healthy eater, I am making an effort to moderate other things like drink and sweets. I am also exercising more. I am happy to report that I just finished my first month of Insanity workouts. It’s amazing how much better one can feel when you establish a daily exercise routine.
  3. Writing:  My recommit to writing, with this blog, is obviously in full effect. I have enjoyed sharing my thoughts, opinions and memories, even if it has been for a limited audience. Writing often is how you improve your craft. It has been a long time since the days when I used to scribble poetry into a spiral notebook, but I feel that I have reconnected with that young version of myself by maintaining this blog. While I hope to write a book someday, this blog will help me prepare for the moment when I am ready to pursue it full tilt.
  4. Music: To me, playing music is an extension of writing because I often play to channel my own self-expression. While it is difficult to carve out the time, I have been lucky in this category. My friend Jan recently loaned me an electric guitar and I am now playing and recording with it. My new MacBook Pro makes this so enjoyable. I’ve even found a way to turn my iPhone into an effects pedal. Very cool. Just got to keep it in headphone land so I don’t wake baby boy, lol.

Hopefully, this list will help me remain accountable to these pursuits. No matter what, number one will always be number one.  The other re-commitments should hold up but it will be a challenge.  One day at a time, living life to the fullest should do the trick.


The Superbowl is Awesome. Apathy Be Damned.

B and G at Skins gameF.I.’s First Guest Blogger Post by the one and only Uncle B:

As I write this who knows if it’ll make it to the blog, G’s blog, Formulate  Infinity. He invited me to add a little bit of commentary to his NFL playoff  stream of consciousness. He’d admit that it’s been a pretty weak week by week exercise. 50/50 Sports Center justifications regurgitated aren’t that  compelling. I don’t have much to add. I’ll even detract. So, I’ll follow his lead and try to relate, I couldn’t drop dimes ‘cause you couldn’t relate… We’re  a tribe… Woolyams Represent.

The Superbowl is awesome. Apathy be damned. Odds are your team ain’t in it.



At this point most of us couldn’t give a crap, but strangely we do. The whole deal has reached holiday status in this country and there’s so much more to root for than just the teams playing the game. We now root for good commercials (4 mil a pop this year) and we look forward to slamming the ones that don’t measure up. We anticipate the halftime show… One more booby please! An excuse to imbibe doesn’t hurt. Getting together to eat and drink and BS with each other is the best, especially with family and friends. Even more awesome would be for your team to be one of the finalists.

G and I haven’t experienced that level of Super Bowl excitement in over 20 years when the Washington Redskins beat the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVI.

It’s all about how you want to relate. If your team ain’t in it. You pick a side to hate or that you hate less. Or, maybe the side upon which you placed a wager. Maybe we root for a player or players, or against them.

1992 was great, but the ‘Skins Super Bowl I remember most was when the ‘Skins whipped the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXII.

628x471-4I think back to age 10. I hated the Broncos – for one game (or at least one quarter). My cousin Ashton, also a big ‘Skins fan, told me on the phone of some kid at their school who wore an ‘Orange Crush’ t-shirt the week before the game. I was too young to understand how a kid who lived and went to school minutes from D.C. could root against the Washington Redskins. We were all excited about the game and it was cool to have relatives that lived so close. The fact that they supplied us with fan gear was pretty cool, too. We forgive the Russian belts.

As for the game, I was a punk – I cried when the Broncos jumped on my beloved Redskins for an early 10-0 lead in 1988. The rest is history. Doug Williams, Timmy Smith, the most points scored in a Super Bowl quarter, etc. In so many ways our Redskins fandom was solidified.

So, for Super Bowl XLVIII I choose to root for the Denver Broncos and I think they’ll win. If they had beaten the Redskins years ago I can honestly say that I would still hold that grudge. To this day I still hold a slight one against the Raiders for Super Bowl XVIII.

blog_espn_magazine_leaf_manningLike a ton of folks, I’m rooting for Peyton Manning. Another Super Bowl ring would help cement his already incredible legacy and go a long way towards quieting his nitpicking detractors. And say this knowing that at age 20 I was one of the idiots who said Ryan Leaf would be the better NFL QB. For some reason I disliked Tennessee and I despised the smug, goofy look I perceived Manning to have. I’m still embarrassed to admit it.

It’s weird that Manning and I are pretty much the same age. He seems like an old man to me. It’s funny how professional sports, football especially, makes guys seem older than they are. And as I get older my rooting interests in teams that aren’t mine are less motivated by hate and dislike. I’m more interested in a good story, a good game, an exciting finish. So here’s to a good game. I’m looking forward to spending the time with my family.


Go Broncos – at least this once.