Effort to rename Warrenville post office after fallen Army medic restarted
Posing for his senior picture in his Wheaton Warrenville South High School football uniform, Jeffrey Williams stayed true to form.
He didn't smile at the camera. Instead, the teen raised his right eyebrow, giving a spot-on impression of his favorite professional wrestler, The Rock.
It's the image remembered most by his former teammates, who are trying to revive an effort to rename the Warrenville post office after Williams, an Army medic killed in Iraq in 2005.
A charismatic kid, Williams was well-known around the post office, where he mailed bills and ran errands for his mom, who has a congenital heart defect.
"He was very outgoing. Everybody knew Jeff," said Sandra Williams Smith, who moved to Texas in 2004. "He was just one of those likable people. Everyone loved him."
His mom originally sought to have the post office renamed after her son in the weeks after his death. In 2007, Pat Quinn, then the lieutenant governor, indicated that he backed the idea but noted the red tape surrounding the renaming of a federal building.
"So it will take an act of Congress to grant her request," Quinn said at the time.
The proposal eventually fizzled, but his old classmates are hoping to show broad community support for such a permanent tribute to Williams by circulating a petition at the South home football game Friday night against rival Wheaton North.
The online version at Change.org has generated more than 780 signatures. Michael Barbier, a Wheaton city councilman and a high school friend of Williams', hopes that the public campaign will encourage lawmakers to take up the cause.
"It has been long enough that we should all realize it should have happened, and we can still get it done," Barbier said.
He remembers Williams as a jovial teen who "would do anything for his mom." Her heart condition would inspire aspirations of becoming a cardiologist. But Williams also felt the "call of duty" after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Barbier said.
He enlisted in the Army after his high school graduation in 2003 and rose to the rank of corporal. The 20-year-old died after his unit was struck by an improvised explosive device in northwestern Iraq on Sept. 5, 2005.
The South football team retired his jersey number, 13, but his classmates want a lasting reminder of his military service with a namesake building. Barbier and Robert Ortman, another close friend and a Marine veteran, will set up tables near the entrance of the football field to collect petitions signatures before the varsity game kickoff at 7:30 p.m.
"He was a great individual and he was a great American," Ortman said. "He sacrificed his life for our country, and he needs to be remembered."