|LCUB celebrates 'Derek's Way'
When employees head to work at Lenoir City Utilities Board’s new building on Creekwood Boulevard, they’ll be greeted with a reminder of Derek Williams, a fellow worker who has touched many lives.
“He’s a good worker,” Ray Reno, who worked with Williams for many years, said. “He’s very intelligent. Any job they put him on in the utilities he excelled. He went everywhere and did really well. He was active in anything they put him in. He was active and he got the job done.
“People loved working with him,” he added. “This was not put on. ... They didn’t come because they had to; they come because they want to. Truly.”
Williams began working in a part-time role for LCUB in 1984 before he was hired full time as a wastewater plant operator in January 1991. He then worked as an apprentice lineman and serviceman before being promoted to substation tech in 2012.
Shortly after the promotion, coworkers began to notice Williams trip or have trouble holding objects. In January 2015, he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Williams stepped down from his position at LCUB on Aug. 31, 2015.
On Thursday, workers from LCUB, Lenoir City Mayor Tony Aikens, members of city council, friends and family all gathered alongside Williams as the employee access road for the new facility was named “Derek’s Way.”
“The main reason is the way that Derek loved the LCUB,” Reno said. “He even wants to be buried in the uniform. It was his attitude toward this place and the way he participated in everything he’d done down here is the reason that’s done. It could have been done to a lot of people, politicians even lately, but they named it after him and I think they did the right thing.”
Shannon Littleton, LCUB general manager, praised Williams’ work ethic and called him a friend before attaching a pin to Williams for 25 years of service.
“It was several weeks ago this has been in the making,” Littleton said after the ceremony. “I had one particular lineman approach me about doing this.
Immediately I thought it was a terrific idea. The name of the road was immediate because Derek’s Way, anybody who knows Derek Williams then you know his way. It’s just kind of very fitting. Why it’s very fitting too is he was very upbeat as an employee. This guy never saw a bad day.”
Ken Spoon, a lineman for LCUB, brought the idea to Littleton and the LCUB administration.
“Every day we turn down that road,” Spoon said. “You’re not feeling good and you’re thinking maybe I don’t want to work today. You look at that sign and you’ve got to say to yourself, ‘You know what, I don’t feel that bad.’ We can tell stories about him. The new ones that come in, we can tell them why it’s like that. We’re probably going to have some pictures of him in our new facility. It’s just going to be an inspiration to all of us. The boy not only was dedicated here, he’s dedicated to the Lord and doing the right thing. He never missed. We had storms and all that and he’s the first one down here saying ‘let’s go to work’.”
Joyce Williams, Derek’s mother, was “overjoyed” by the outpouring of support.
“These boys have been so good to him this whole time,” Joyce said. “It seems like they just can’t do enough for him. It’s just been wonderful.”
Since Williams left LCUB he has become wheelchair bound and can only speak through a computer screen, but he has maintained the positivity that attracted so many to him, Spoon said. Williams will still text former coworkers with jokes.
“He’s always been a make you laugh kind of guy,” Susan Williams, Derek’s wife, said. “That’s one of the things that actually attracted me to him when we were younger is he’s a funny guy. He always likes to be jokey and stuff. He is, he’s upbeat. We’re Christians so it is what it is and we take each day as it comes and we don’t dwell on the negative. We just deal with what the day brings and try to see the positives in it. He’s incredible at doing that.”
The ceremony marked Thursday as Derek Williams Day and included a proclamation declaring the road Derek’s Way.
“We are deeply touched,” Susan said. “My husband, they were accurate, he loved his job. He loved working at the utilities. I’ve heard so much about so many poles and power lines. We would drive by and he would tell me what he did and everything. He loved his job. He always had a good attitude and I just think this is incredible what they’ve done. We are really blessed and these people have been wonderful to take care of us too through all of this.”
Williams smiled and laughed as former coworkers shared stories, and tears were shed by many.
“He’s humble and he really — I know he doesn’t believe what’s happening,” Susan said of her husband. “He doesn’t like all the attention, I have to tell you that. That’s why they had to keep it all hush-hush because he does not like this kind of attention, but I know it just makes his heart swell just thinking about how much he has touched other people, how many people he has touched and how many people want to do this for him. I just think it speaks to a man that has lived his life, not big and in the public, but has lived a good life and tried to take care of his family and his church and the people around him. It shows now that he’s in need they’re taking care of him and I guess giving that back.”