Charles "Chic" Williams had a profound effect on Geneva schoolchildren, as a teacher, coach, dean and counselor.
"I can't tell you the number of people I've run into over the last 20 years who said, 'Chic turned my kid around,' " Geneva school board member Mary Stith said.
Williams, 67, died Monday at his home in Rockford. He had been ill for several months, according to Craig Collins, the school district's assistant superintendent for human resources, but he continued to come to work on a limited basis.
Williams began teaching English at Geneva High School in 1969. He also coached the debate team, directed plays, and coached the varsity baseball team. He was dean of students for 18 years.
Three years after his first wife died, his life took a big turn: In 1985 he confronted his own issues with substance abuse and became a certified drug- and alcohol-abuse counselor. He realized many of the students he was dealing with as dean had problems stemming from such issues.
"It was an energizing force for him," Collins said. "He was a good personal example" that addiction is something the kids could address head-on, and that there were "many avenues to sobriety and recovery."
And when he retired in 2001, he established and ran the district's Community Intervention Program for Geneva and Kane County residents, working with at-risk children and their parents and guardians.
"I owed this community because it supported me. I wanted to give back," he said in a 2006 Daily Herald interview. "Personal experience has helped me understand abuse."
The students he and his second wife, Linda, helped included those with alcohol and drug problems; children who had been physically or verbally abused; truants; those who violated curfews; and those who had out-of-control behaviors. He led the "Parent-to-Parent 2000" series of classes annually.
"I'm not in this to get kids in trouble. Kids know that we're their advocate, but we also hold them accountable," he said in 2006. "There aren't bad kids. There are good kids that made bad choices."
Kids were referred by teachers, courts, police and parents. Williams would meet with them, twice a week for six months, in an office filled both with photos of kids and warnings about the legal consequences of, say, taking a fraudulent drug test. He worked on Red Ribbon Week campaigns to educate Geneva about the reality of drug use in town, telling parents about their children going to Chicago to get heroin, that at least 20 percent of Geneva teens had used marijuana and about teen drinking. He answered calls for help at all hours: "Available 24/7; DO NOT HESITATE TO CALL!" is in bold letters by his number, on the district's website.
"He never lost sight that we were working with young people who would sometimes make poor choices (during their) "turbulent teen years," Collins said, adding that Williams believed he should be honest and straightforward with the students, and hold them accountable for their actions, but also give them assistance.
Williams is survived by his wife, Linda; two daughters; three sons; 11 grandchildren; and a brother. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Mary; his parents; and a brother.
His funeral is at 8 p.m. Friday at Malone Funeral Home, 324 E. State St., Geneva. A wake will be held from 3 p.m. until the service.
Memorial gifts should be made to Rosecrance, a mental health and substance abuse treatment center at 1021 N. Mulford Road, Rockford, 61107; or the Charles A. Williams Memorial Scholarship Fund, c/o Geneva High School, 227 N. Fourth St., Geneva, 60134.