We lost a truly great person on May 22nd 2016 when Bruce Williams passed away in San Jose California. Bruce was just awesome. He personified the quiet leader who spoke with actions and few words. I learned a lot from the little time I was able to spend with him. And I’m grateful and humbled that he shared that time, wisdom, advice, humor and a beer with me.
The backstory – our company’s employees are mostly in Houston, Austin and California. As a virtual company when you expand you still need a physical space to “go to” and to “meet” when you travel. Coffee shops only go so far. So when April Kyle expanded Tendenci west to California she carefully chose just such a place – The Office of Silicon Valley in Sunnyvale.
It is easy to think of an office as a physical place. But they are so much more. And this becomes even more important when physical interchanges between employees are fewer because we’ve moved to Zulip (or Slack) and online ticketing system, github, gitlab, redmine, tendenci (we use it ourselves too), gmail, skype and a few other open source tools that hold our company together. And trust me, you still need a few trusted physical spaces.
And if those physical locations are run by a trusted and wise elder who is humble but wise, then you have truly found a diamond.
That diamond – his name was Bruce Lee Williams and he was welcoming and supportive when we expanded to California far far beyond what any typical co-working space that I have experienced is like. His depth of knowledge was astounding as were his connections, but you only knew this if you asked him as he was respectful to everyone and sometimes entrepreneurs are too knuckle-headed to ask for advice. Luckily our team isn’t like that.
Bruce helped me personally in so many ways, sometimes in a 5 minute talk, sometimes giving me 2 hours of his time on the spur of the moment. That time had value, which he and I both knew and, well maybe I’m repeating myself, but this is a man I truly respected. He was the real deal and while the world may not know his name like they know Steve Jobs’ name, I assure you this humble man had as much impact on Silicon Valley over the years as anyone I can think of. He spoke softly. And people listened. I listened.
Bruce – I appreciate everything you did to help my team, to help us continue to grow Tendenci. I appreciate the meetings you set up for me on a moments notice when I flew into town unannounced. I appreciate that you let my team bring their dogs to work. I appreciate the epic ping pong battles and the creativity of your own company. You are missed. You are legend Sir. Legend!
Obituary for Bruce Lee Williams
Bruce Williams passed away surrounded by loving family and friends on the evening of Sunday, May 22. Bruce fought a valiant fight against the ravages of pancreatic cancer for 18 months. He fought hard and with his typical upbeat and positive nature, more worried about how his disease was affecting others than himself.
Bruce was born in St. Charles, MO on July 7, 1950 to Frank and Gladys Williams. He graduated from William Jewel College in Liberty MO and served his country in the United States Navy during the Vietnam War.
In the early 1990’s he founded Westminster Promotions and was the driving force in its success. Surrounded by a dedicated group of individuals, Westminster is the quintessential small business where its employees are family and Bruce loved and valued them all.
Bruce truly was “one of a kind” and he “never met a stranger”. He had the unique ability to make those he came in contact with feel like they were the most important person in the room, and it was genuine – to him they were! He loved people and was interested in their lives, hopes and dreams. He never saw himself as a mentor and yet that is exactly what he was. He mentored so many people and led by example, demonstrating a determination to succeed, a loving heart and an unparalleled zest for life.
Bruce is survived by his loving and heartbroken wife, Kathryn Williams, his children Courtney Williams (Montique), Brian Brown (Kelly) and Matthew Brown (Kristin). He will miss the opportunity to watch his six grandchildren grow and thrive under the legacy he leaves – Jaelyn, Nate, Evelyn, Nora, Landon and Ethan. He will be missed by the “sister he never had” Diana Elizondo and brother-in-law, Larry Elizondo. He is survived by his brother Doug Williams (Elma), and loving nieces, nephews and their families. And finally he leaves behind the friends who weren’t related by blood, but by love, and were considered family members – you know who you are. He was pre-deceased by his brother Frank and they are probably up there somewhere sharing a thermos of gin and tonics and shooting a round of golf.
A Celebration of Life, followed by a party he Bruce would have loved, will be held on June 4th at 3:30 at the Williams’ home, located at 20890 Hidden View Lane in Saratoga. Because parking is extremely limited, a shuttle will be provided from Saratoga Elementary School, 14592 Oak St. Saratoga, beginning at 2:30. Return shuttle will be provided until 7:30.
Donations in Bruce’s name may be sent to The Helen Diller Family Cancer Center at UCSF.
From his bio on his company’s site at: http://westminsterpromotions.com/about/bruce-williams
Founder, Westminster Promotions
As founder and CEO, Bruce has consistently led the company for the past two decades with vision and purpose. His keen eye for talent has allowed him to assemble a strong group of professionals who exhibit their considerable skills to insure the client is highly satisfied with the end result. His extensive background in sales has provided him with the ability to clearly understand the needs of the client and to guide them to the best solution. Bruce brings exuberance and passion to the job and coupled with the seniority and wisdom of a Silicon Valley veteran, that makes for an unbeatable combination. Clients have included AT&T Labs, TiVo, PalmSource, NetApp, National Semiconductor and many other Silicon Valley heavy hitters.
With many years of experience, who better to guide this team of creative professionals? Our fearless leader is in the office every morning by 7:00 and doesn’t leave until the job is done and done right. Need advice? Call Bruce. Don’t understand a business acronym someone just threw at you? Call Bruce. Need a laugh? Call Bruce. There’s a reason the name Bruce is nearly always associated with “The Boss”.
When he is not in the office you can find him wrangling his small herd of grandbabies or perhaps poolside playing bartender. Bruce is ever the gracious host and makes a mean Cosmo although recently he’s been dabbling in the world of Margaritas. He plays just as hard as he works and we love him for it.
I have no doubt this post does not give proper credit to the amazing man that Bruce was. Bruce was not only humble and very influential, but also quiet like many of us. He didn’t share his troubles and his passing caught me off guard. All I can say is, and I think he would agree with this statement, great people are all around you. Hug them now because life is short.
I am thankful for your positive influence on my life and for the help you went above and beyond on for our company. You rock Bruce. And you are truly missed already.
In closing, all I can say is what Bruce would say. GO SHARKS!!!!!
PS – once the Sharks win their first NHL Championship, which I guarantee Bruce is watching right now, then the ping-pong leader board in Heaven will have a new competitor. A soft-spoken, strong competitor and leader. Rock on Bruce. Rock on.