Gudrun Benedicte Friis Williams

Williams—Gudrun Benedicte Friis Williams, 91, on February 24, 2017, in Denton, Tex. Gudrun was born on October 1, 1925, in Geneva, Switzerland, to Danish parents Bodil and Finn Friis. Her mother was a Lutheran, and her father was a humanist. Instead of church on Sundays, the family went on nature excursions: hiking, skiing, and studying botany. Gudrun remembered living a simple but comfortable life. Her family came into contact with Quakers through a Quaker hostel. The family returned to Denmark in 1940, when she was 14. Her father worked for the League of Nations, which was drawing back at the start of World War II. She described her life as “pretty rough” during the war. Her parents made contacts with Quakers in Copenhagen, and by the end of the war her mother had resigned from the Lutheran Church (which was unheard of then) and joined the Quakers. Her father joined years later, waiting until he felt he was “good enough.” With her Quaker friends, Gudrun joined the workcamp movement in 1948 in England and France, distributing food and clothing for American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in the French zone of occupied Germany and serving in a community center.

It was there she met her future husband, Wendell Williams. They married on July 3 and 4, 1948 (a civil service, followed by a Quaker service). In November 1948, they sailed to the United States and settled in Richmond, Ind., where Wendell taught at Earlham College. In 1951, they joined Clear Creek Meeting there in Richmond. Then Wendell’s career took them to Lubbock, Tex., where in 1958, they joined Friends Meeting of Austin. In Lubbock they adopted siblings Sally and David, two-and-a-half and five years old. In 1965, they moved to Denton, Tex., and joined Dallas Meeting.

In 1974, they moved to Richmond, Va., and transferred their membership to Richmond Meeting, where Gudrun was a much loved and active member. She served as clerk, recording clerk, and clerk of Care and Counsel, Library, and Hospitality Committees, as a member of Social Concerns and Ministry and Worship Committees, and on Baltimore Yearly Meeting’s Nominating Committee. She was also active with resettling Cambodian refugees and visiting prisoners at the state penitentiary. She said of herself, “I am not a terribly introspective or reflective person. I am more of a doer. Quakerism and service are all part of each other.” She would frequently quote Pierre Cérésole, a Swiss pacifist and founder of the workcamp movement in Europe: “It is life itself, ordinary life, which is our essential and constant communion with God.”

Gudrun had two master’s degrees and was fluent in English, Danish, French, Spanish, and German. She taught French at a local university and enjoyed skiing, tennis, hiking, birding, and gardening. A talented artist, she did a pen-and-ink drawing of Richmond Meetinghouse that appears on the meeting’s monthly newsletter. In 1994, she and Wendell retired to Friends House in Sandy Spring, Md., and joined Sandy Spring Meeting. When Wendell died, Gudrun moved to Denton, Tex., to live with her son.

Gudrun is survived by two children, Sally Ann Williams Nicholson and David Williams (Jane); two grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

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