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Lynda Williamson named 2015 Rotary Citizen of the Year
2nd posthumous honor for Statesboro businesswoman, leader
Hughes Williamson, right, shares the plaque he accepted on behalf of his wife, Lynda Brannen Williamson, who was honored posthumously as the 2015 Rotary Citizen of the Year, with Thelma and Roy Kilpatrick Monday during a luncheon at Forest Heights Country Club. Gov. Nathan Deal was the guest speaker.

Lynda Brannen Williamson was once again honored posthumously, this time as the 2015 Rotary Citizen of the Year by the two Statesboro Rotary clubs.

This recognition, during a Monday luncheon at Forest Heights Country Club, comes just over two months after the Statesboro-Bulloch Chamber of Commerce named Williamson the 2014 Business Leader of the Year.

Williamson died Nov. 2 after three years with peritoneal cancer. She was 51. Her husband of 30 years, Hughes Williamson, accepted the award.

"It means a lot to receive this on her behalf," he said in an interview after the ceremony. "First of all, because she was very involved in the community, she was all about community service.

"We are very lucky to live in a community like we do," he continued. "People here are very giving, and, you know, the past three years, we've been the recipient of the love and the giving of this community during her illness."

In her final months, Lynda Williamson created a foundation named after her to help young women combine community leadership and service. Lisa Lee, the foundation president, said the organization is raising money and taking steps to possibly train its first class of young women starting this fall.

Women who qualify for the class will have just completed college and demonstrated leadership potential in school or through jobs they have held, Lee said.

"Hopefully, we will provide them a mentor in the community, somebody that has some kind of service that they need, that we can pair them together as a lifelong partner to help them through their career," Lee said in an interview.

Before the award was presented, Gov. Nathan Deal, who was the guest speaker, dedicated the last portion of his speech to thanking the Statesboro and Downtown Statesboro Rotary clubs for honoring someone in the community for service each year. He also congratulated Williamson's family.

Service "is one of the things that keeps our society together," said Deal, himself a Rotarian and former president of the Rotary Club of Gainesville. "It is not laws that make our society work. It is people, people of goodwill, people who abide by the law but go over and above what the law demands of them and give of their time and their resources. That is what the servant's heart is really all about."

Lori Durden, a member of the Rotary Club of Statesboro, an administrator at Ogeechee Technical College and the 12th Congressional District representative on the University System of Georgia's Board of Regents, presented the award.

Durden came up with a number of words to describe Williamson, her friend and mentor: smart, courageous, adventurous, spiritual, classy, ahead of her time, community-oriented, charitable.

"A plaque hung in Lynda's kitchen with the following quote, and I think it pretty much sums up her time spent on this earth," Durden said, her voice slightly breaking. "And it read: ‘The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.' She had many gifts, and she shared them with this entire community."

Jason Wermers may be reached at (912) 489-9431.

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