Preston Thomas Williams passed away on December 22 in his home in Montclair, NJ. He is survived by his wife Julie Williams and his children Kyle Thomas Williams and Erika Renée Williams, born in 1973 from a previous marriage. His parents Mary Jane Williams and Coleridge Williams and two siblings, Lila Ann Morgan and Jack (Jackie) Williams, predeceased him.
Preston Thomas Williams was born on September 4, 1942 in Portsmouth Virginia. Early on, he developed a passion for music and particularly excelled at playing the trumpet. He enrolled at Hampton University (then Institute) where he received a Bachelor of Science in Music in 1965. There, he played trumpet in the Bill Barnwell Quintet, which was known for its signature tune “My Funny Valentine.” In 1966 he earned a Master’s Degree in Music from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. In 1967, he entered the army as a Private First Class. He was stationed at Fort Monmouth Army Base in Monmouth County, N.J., where he played taps to honor those soldiers who died fighting in the Vietnam War. He was honorably discharged with the rank of Specialist E-5.
For over 25 years, he worked as a music teacher for the East Orange Public School system. During this time, he also directed the high school marching band at East Orange High, inspiring and mentoring a number of aspiring young musicians.
While teaching full time, he continued to devote time to being a musician. A highlight of his music career was playing with Weldon Irvine and Nina Simone in NYC. In the eighties, he formed the band Celsius with Jaqui Greadington, for which he was a writer, keyboardist, and singer. Celsius recorded and performed locally. He was also an avid jogger and a frequent patron of Grove convenience store, where he could often be found grabbing a coffee, joking around, and playing the lottery.
In 1988, he married Julie Duren Williams, an R.N. who worked for 45 years as a nurse and clinical coordinator at Mountainside Hospital and their son Kyle Thomas Williams was born in 1992. A loving husband and father, Preston continued to work in music education until he retired in 1993. He continued to nurture his passion for music, eventually returning to play his beloved trumpet, which he also encouraged his son Kyle to take up.
Although in his later years he struggled with ongoing health problems, he continued to be a dedicated father to his adoring children, often regaling them with funny childhood stories, and to inspire some of his former students, who continued to reach out to him.
The service will be held at Martin's funeral home at 48 Elm Street in Montclair, New Jersey on December 31st at 12:00 pm with a maximum capacity of 25 visitors in adherence to Covid precaution guidelines, with additional seats for virtual attendence.
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