Longtime Stephenville High School coach and teacher Patti Williams couldn’t be blamed if she were to use Al Pacino’s famous line from the mafia movie Godfather 3: “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”
Technically, this is her third time trying to quit — but the first two didn’t stick.
Williams is ready to spend more time with her retired husband, former school administrator Ken Williams, and watching baseball together as well as playing golf. But she will miss the students and staff members she is leaving behind at SHS, where she has worked for most of the last 19 years.
“It’s hard to give up the kids,” said Williams, who said they plan to remain in Stephenville, with frequent trips to her hometown of Wellington to see her mother. “I plan on playing a lot of golf. My husband and I do will do some traveling. I may work part-time. I’ll see where God leads me.”
Williams began coaching at a junior high school in Amarillo in 1979, and eventually became head girls basketball coach at Amarillo Caprock High School for two years. Her career also included stints as head girls golf coach at Amarillo High, along with assistant coaching positions at Kingwood and Splendora. She and her husband moved to Stephenville in 2000.
Williams had officially retired in 2008 after leaving SHS for three years as an assistant volleyball, track and powerlifting coach in the girls athletics program at Granbury High School. However, she was soon contacted by former SISD Athletic Director and head football coach Joseph Gillespie, who convinced her to return to the school that next fall as a “retire rehire.”
Williams, who most recently has been the head girls golf coach and assistant volleyball coach, also planned to leave her profession at the close of the 2017-18 school year. That marked the end of Fran Metzger’s coaching career, the longtime Honeybees’ head volleyball coach who led them to the 2003 state championship. Again, Williams got a call that convinced her to kick off her shoes and stay awhile longer.
“I decided that last year, before Coach Metzger retired. I told them I’m not coming back,” Williams said. “Last May (of 2018), I turned in my resignation.”
But Jerod Womack, not long after he had been named as the new SISD athletic director, called Williams asking her to stay on as the assistant under Shay Douglas, an SHS alum who was just hired at that time as new volleyball head coach.
Williams — who had known Douglas since she was an eighth-grader (Shay Gracy at that time) in the school’s volleyball program — agreed to return, teaching only two math classes last fall, as well as full-time coaching duties for the full school year.
“There’s just not as many math teacher coaches as there used to be,” Williams explained. “It did make me feel good to be wanted.”
This time around, there were a few who questioned that this would be the final retirement.
“Everybody said, ‘Are you sure?’ I’m never going to say never,” Williams said.
She said the highlight of her coaching career was being on the coaching staff of that 2003 Honeybee volleyball squad that won the school’s only state volleyball title.
“That’s hard to beat,” Williams said. “When we won it, it was just amazing. This last year of coaching with Shay was meaningful to me.”
Although Williams is leaving with a multitude of fond memories from her SISD years, she and her husband endured some trying times when they were living in the Texas Panhandle. At that time her husband was the principal at Panhandle High School.
The first incident involved Patti and Ken as victims of violence — a crime with multiple victims that was well-chronicled at the time by media outlets out of nearby Amarillo.
In July of 1990 — on Friday the 13th — a 19-year-old former student shot and killed a 17-year-old boy. The killer, who later signed a confession, also wounded two other people, including Ken Williams.
The self-professed Satanist came to the Williams’ residence after midnight, at about 3 a.m., and fired three hollow-point bullets from a .357 magnum pistol. The bullets penetrated the door and hit Ken Williams, with one of them doing major damage to his intestines. He also suffered injuries to his neck and spine when he fell, and later had to undergo multiple surgeries.
“He had a list of about eight people (to murder), all authority figures,” Patti Williams said of the confessed killer, who was wearing a black trench coat despite the heat on that hot summer Panhandle night. “It was quite a nightmare.”
The shooter was sentenced to three life sentences. So far his requests to the parole board for early release have all been denied.
The other tragedy was the death of their only daughter, Lindsay Williams, to brain cancer in 1996.
“That was a tough time, the shooting and losing our daughter, all within six years,” Patti Williams said. “The only way we dealt with it was we kept our faith in God. He kept us on the track. We had to focus on God.”