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Raising the roof to help a family

Sunday, October 29, 2006

(Photo)
"They're building Jeff's house," said Abby Williams at the construction site west of Gordonville where volunteers worked on the garage on Saturday. She and her husband, Jeff, designed the house before he died Oct. 8.
(Fred Lynch)
By CHRIS PAGANO

Southeast Missourian

Both sides of County Road 222 near Gordonville were lined with pickups and cars Saturday as dozens of people helped build a garage for a pastor's widow.

Abby Williams and her husband, Jeff, had closed on the sale of their Jackson home Sept. 29, with plans to build the garage, then move into the garage's loft while building their house alongside. Barely a week later, Jeff, 46, died in his sleep. He had the signs of a massive heart attack.

"Jeff was such a nice guy. He cheered me up a lot of times," said Fred Eggley, a Lowe's Home Improvement employee who had become friends with the couple through their frequent trips for supplies.

When Eggley learned of Jeff Williams' death, he planned to line up as much labor as possible to finish the job before the weather turned bad, with the outside hope of finishing it in a day.

About 50 people were out Saturday performing a variety of tasks. While siding was going up, trusses were being built and boards were being nailed together.

"It was either this or the wood will rot," said Carolyn Findlan, a 16-year-old Fruitland Community Church member, as she stood near the makeshift stairs, holding a ladder for workers entering and exiting the second level.

Workers put the roof and siding on Saturday but "ran out of daylight," Eggley said. He said about 80 percent of the job was completed and another work day will be scheduled soon.

Jeff Williams had ministered at New Life Fellowship Church in Cape Girardeau until last November and was the current pastor at New Covenant Fellowship Church in Paducah, Ky. The Cape Girardeau church dissolved, but the couple kept in touch with many in the congregation.

Volunteers from four churches were helping Saturday -- Fruitland Community Church, Lynwood Baptist Church, Cape First Church of Christ and the Worldwide Church of God in Springfield. Patsy Gilley, a member of the Springfield Church of God, traveled five hours to help. She met Williams when visiting her daughter in Oak Ridge. While here, she attended New Life Fellowship Church.

Abby Williams' sister, Lila Bauman of St. Louis, videotaped Saturday's events. She said she knew Jeff longer than her sister did. "He wasn't just a brother-in-law. He was a really great guy," she said.

Bauman and Abby's friend, Vickie Bollinger of Jackson, said they intend to be the support system for the Williams family. Bollinger's husband, Steve, owner and operator of Golden Rule Construction Co., was there volunteering while his wife and some of the other women spent time with Abby.

"I want to be there for her and connect with her kids," Vicky Bollinger said.

Williams and her two children, Nathan, 11 and Naomi, 8, are living in Jackson with her mother and have decided to stay there until the house is built, though plans are still not solid.

But having a concrete plan was not an issue for Abby. Married 19 1/2 years, she said she misses her husband terribly but that her heart's not heavy.

"God's been good," she said. "He gives us a peace that can't be described."

cpagano@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 133


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