Story of the Month – January 2015


A Protector of Democracy and Freedom

By Graham Andrew Zolkowski

Francis Gordon Williamson

My grandfather, Francis Gordon Williamson (1919-2008) was an officer in the U.S. Navy during WWII.  Afterward, he remained in the Reserves so the extensive time and training that had been invested in him would still be available to his country if another war broke out. When the Korean War broke out, he was called up to Korea just months after he married my grandmother.  He left his new bride to serve as an officer in a Mine Squadron, which was an incredibly dangerous job.  Because of his excellent engineering skills and calm nature (I never saw him get upset!) he was eventually then given the responsibility of overseeing the speedy repairs of all minesweepers in the Sea of Japan.  His work was vital so the Navy could travel freely.  He also spent a lot of time training other officers in the Navy.  By the time the war ended, he had achieved the rank of Lt. Commander, and he remained in the Reserves until 1979, proud of his long service to the United States of America.

While he was fighting in Korea, most of his WWII friends made great strides in their civilian careers. A booming post war economy was something that tempted many to look out for their own personal best interests, but my grandfather knew the importance of continuing to protect the Democracy and Freedom that had been hard earned in WWII.   After Korea he had to start his career from scratch and explored several different options.   It was not ever in my grandfather’s nature to complain, and eventually he found his calling as a beloved inner-city high school drafting and chemistry teacher, putting to use many of the skills that made him so valuable in the Navy and setting an example for the at-risk young people he worked with every day.

Thanks to my grandfather, I never undervalue the sacrifices and the costs of the Democracy and Freedom we enjoy today. Without people in the military like my grandfather, I would not have the same opportunities as I do now to better my family, my country, and myself. Because my grandfather put others’ needs before his own, we have all been lucky enough to reap the rewards. Inspired by his dedication to serve others, while also sharing his great love of science, I am attending the University of Illinois, Urbana, this fall and hope to one day become a doctor.

As a teacher, my grandfather always stressed the importance of education and emphasized the benefits of a college degree (he had two!)  Despite my high aspirations for becoming a doctor, I know that getting an MD or a PhD in anything is easier said then done. However, my grandfather demonstrated throughout his military career a great deal of perseverance and courage, which I have grown to admire more and more as I’ve gotten older. I strive to be like him in as many ways as I can, because I know if he can fight through two wars, survive and even thrive, then I certainly can do anything that I put my mind to, including becoming a doctor.

My grandfather gave me a role model to look up to and who pushed me to excel and never give up.   He was also a very kind and loving man.  I was born on his birthday, January 8, and he always said I was the best present he ever got.  He died 6 years ago, but he is still in my heart.  The sacrifices made by my grandfather and others in his generation have given me the most amazing opportunities for my future.  That hard work will not be squandered by grandson who doesn’t understand the sacrifices of the Korean War vets and other proud servicemen!

                                                                                                        With Grandfather       Graham