College honors deceased Trooper Frankie Williams
MAYS LANDING - College life first found its way into the heart of Frankie Williams when he was here balancing academics with a full-time job and an ultimately successful goal of joining the New Jersey State Police.
Now, in a sense, Frankie Williams will be showing the way into the heart of Atlantic Cape Community College for years to come.
Atlantic Cape officials were joined at their campus by Rutgers University representatives on Friday to dedicate a road, a tree and a plaque in memory of Williams. The Egg Harbor Township resident was killed in the line of duty on Dec. 5, 2016 in a head-on collision on Route 55 in Cumberland County.
The dedication of “Frankie Williams Way” was one piece of a ceremony that brought to the campus his widow, Kimberly Williams, and his mother, Victoria Williams, as well as the deputy superintendent of the state police and former squad mates of Williams.
Victoria Williams said her son settled on a state police career path as a boy growing up in Lakeland, Florida.
“He was surrounded by state troopers, FBI agents, and you know police officers,” his mother said after the ceremony. “It wasn’t my dream, no. I wanted him to be a lawyer. But that was his dream.
“And when he told me he was doing it, he says, ‘Mom, I gave you everything. This one’s for me,’” she said. “There’s a time that you have to step back and let him be his own man. His own person. Because he’s still doing the right thing.”
Kimberly Williams met her future husband as a teenager, he coming to stay summers with an aunt who lived on the same street as she did.
Boardwalk Hall hosted the funeral service for New Jersey State Trooper Frankie Williams on Monday, December 12. Following the service, the fallen trooper was given a final farewell down the boardwalk.
“I was really proud of him,” she said later at a reception. “It was awesome to be able to say that my husband was a New Jersey state trooper. Everyone really looks at them with respect. And they really have such integrity and they serve the communities and the state in such a way that nationally they are recognized. It was just really awesome to know he finished the academy and he was able to live out his dreams.”
Along with the road dedication, the college and university also presented a dogwood tree and a memorial plaque newly planted outside a Rutgers facility. Surrounded by Montauk daisies, a tree and plaque wait at the head of Frankie Williams Way for visitors.
“He exemplified all the qualities we hope our alumni will bring to their community —intelligence, dedication, fortitude, and hope for the future,” Atlantic Cape President Barbara Gaba said. “In honor of his dedication to this community, he will be forever remembered … as we name this street ‘Frankie Williams Way.’”
Williams, who was 31, lived in Mays Landing with his future wife as he worked toward the associate’s degree Atlantic Cape would award him in 2009. That diploma was the springboard to Rutgers University and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in 2012.
Williams was assigned to the state police barracks in Port Norris. He had graduated training in late January 2016.
Family attending the ceremony included cousins of Randy Narvaez, 28, of New Brunswick and Leslie Narvaez. The two are cousins of Kimberly Williams and knew her husband for years.
“I used to spend a lot of time with Kim, her and her brother, at her house,” said Randy Narvaez. “So, I met Frankie when he first started coming around. All around awesome. I think the words that were said today really captured it all. Like helpful, caring, respectful. He’d light up the room.”
“He drove you to do your best,” Leslie Narvaez said.
“My partner is a state trooper, as well,” said Randy Narvaez, who is assistant principal at a school in Camden city. “They spoke when Frankie first became interested in the state police. I just know that was what he wanted to do.
“But at the same time, one of the text messages I read from Frankie was about how, even though he was going into the state police, he wanted to make sure that the quality of life that he could spend with his wife, with Kim, would never change,” he added. “And that was one of the things that stood out to me.”
This Monday was another anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and state police Lt. Col. Patrick Callahan said what happened that day for him connects to what happened to Trooper Frankie Williams.
And beyond that, Callahan said, law enforcement members everywhere run towards danger, not away from it.
“They raise their hands on graduation day — in what I call the most Christ-like action that I can think of — raise their hands and say, ‘I’ll do that. I’ll do that to the best of my ability. And it might mean that one day I might lay down my life and not go home, and not be able to see my mom, not be able to see my wife, not be able to see my aunt and uncle, my friends, and my squad mates,” Callahan said.
“I loved the fact that they called this ‘Frankie Williams Way,’” he said. “And I didn’t know that the road was going to be named that, but it’s kind of a good reminder that maybe the best thing we can do to honor his memory is to do things the ‘Frankie Williams way.’”
The Atlantic Cape Foundation also has established the Frankie L. Williams Memorial Scholarship for criminal justice majors.
Joseph P. Smith; (856) 563-5252; firstname.lastname@example.org