Cover photo for James Williams's Obituary
1970 James 2020

James Williams

October 11, 1970 — December 7, 2020

He marched with determination and confidence straight into the amphitheater and stood on a pillar where crowds of tourists could see and hear.  He stole the stage, as the less than captivating local guides were incomprehensible to the English speaking masses.  When people heard him speak they gathered in droves.  At the top of his ringing voice he gave a dynamic and engaging performance in a profound depiction of the Roman Colosseum’s events and architectural history.  He made a generous income on tips alone.  And within a few years, in the late 90s he founded the very first local, fluent English speaking tour guide (cultural) organization named, Walks of Rome. This he built from the ground up, employing over 50 well spoken and educated students of architectural history who he tutored to become professional guides around every historical landmark in and around the city of Rome as well as several at the Vatican itself.  He had a special passion for personally giving tours at the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel.  This is Jim’s legacy.

James McDarrell Williams, age 50, a native of Grand Rapids, MI born October 11, 1970 died at home in his bed December 7, 2020 due to a number of conditions.  He excelled in mathematics and world politics as a proud alumnus of Michigan State University, and attended classes in philosophy and theology at the Gregorian (Jesuit) University in Rome.  He was an accomplished world traveler, but his passion was in Central Italy.  If Rome was a woman, she stole his heart and guided his soul to Catholicism.  He was always the brilliant center of attention with an outspoken personality.  He thrived on sharing his love for fun and games.   He loved 70s/80s music but had a special joy for oldies-but-goodies.  His favorite U.S. holiday was the annual Thanksgiving Moore Family Reunion.  And his greatest joy was staying up all night with his mother baking a wide assortment of 50 homemade pies for that special day.  A wide measure of his faith and professional success is due to his family’s pride and the love, support, and encouragement of his closest friends, and in no small part to the Penna, Mcniff, and endearing Simcox extended families who loved, inspired, mentored, and cared for him so far from home.  The best part of James will always be within the memory and love by his family and all who he has touched.

James is preceded in death by his parents Evelyn Moore-Steadman, Nancy Moore-Dutell, Gary Williams, and sister Tammy Buitendyk-Dalton.  He is survived by his daughter, Katie Vander Ploeg; his sisters, Kelly (Karl) Williams-Alber, Rebecca Buitendyk-Sefton, and Wanda Dutell-Turner; his brothers, David Jr (Lisa) Steadman, Douglas (Laura) Dempsey, Gary Jr (Hatice) Williams, and Randy Williams, his beloved nieces and nephews and stepmother, Anna Williams.

Due to the cruel threat of the Covid-19 pandemic, all OFFICIAL ceremonies are postponed but the memory of Jim will be forever safe in the sharing of his many fans, best of friends around the world, and loving family. Memorial donations to help with burial expenses may be made to the family at

Peace Prayer of Saint Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:

where there is hatred, let me sow love;

where there is injury, pardon;

where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;

where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek

to be consoled as to console,

to be understood as to understand,

to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive,

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.


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