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Katherine R. Williams, an educator, and her husband, Dr. Mortimer L. Williams, a surgeon, died eight days apart

Katherine and Mortimer Williams moved in the 1990s to Irvington on Virginia’s Northern Neck.
Katherine and Mortimer Williams moved in the 1990s to Irvington on Virginia’s Northern Neck. (Handout / HANDOUT)

Katherine R. Williams, a retired Garrison Forest School educator, and her husband, Dr. Mortimer L. Williams, a retired Johns Hopkins Hospital head and neck surgeon, died eight days apart in their home in Irvington, Virginia. She was 94; he was 96.

Both died from complications of a stroke, Mrs. Williams on April 18, Dr. Williams on April 26.

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The former Katherine Harmon Ten Hoopen, the daughter of Paul Ten Hoopen, and his then-wife, Katherine Harmon Ten Hoopen, was also the stepdaughter of William S. Ryland. She was born in Des Moines, Iowa, and spent her early years in High Point, North Carolina, before moving to Baltimore with her family.

“In Baltimore, she was known as Katherine Ryland, but had not been adopted by her stepfather,” said her daughter, Katherine Brune “Kathy” Kimball of West Lebanon, New Hampshire.

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She was a 1945 graduate of the Bryn Mawr School and attended Vassar College before marrying Frederick W. Brune Jr. in 1947. The couple later divorced.

In 1973, she earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island.

Mrs. Williams joined the Garrison faculty in the early 1960s, teaching mathematics for 20 years and serving as Middle School head for six years. She spent the last three years of her career at the Owings Mills school, until retiring in the late 1980s, as head of the mathematics department.

“She was my teacher at Garrison. I was a boarder there, and she became like a second mother to me, and when our first child was born, I asked her to be his godmother,” said the Rev. Caroline R. Stewart, an Episcopal priest who is executive director of the Center for Well Being at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer.

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Mrs. Williams was a popular figure at Garrison with students and faculty.

“She was so devoted to all of us and wanted only the best for us. She exemplified love and support for us,” Ms. Stewart said. “She was so authentic and didn’t have to pretend. She had a sense of vulnerability and was very self-effacing, and we could share that with her. So many people thought so highly of her and she was beloved by the students.”

As a person who so loved math and wanted the women she taught to excel in a predominantly male-oriented subject, she had novel ways of making the subject approachable. For instance, to make geometry more relevant, she took her students to a tennis court to formulate right angles and precise measurements. An accomplished needlepointer, Mrs. Williams used needlepoint as a way to demonstrate math at work.

After retiring from Garrison, she was a trustee emerita of the school and also a longtime member of the women’s committee at the Walters Art Museum, serving as its chair for two years. She was a member of the Mount Vernon Club and served on its board.

In 1972, she married Dr. Williams, a surgeon and otolaryngologist who was known as Lee.

Mortimer Lee Williams, the son of Dr. Mortimer Williams, a physician, and his wife, Frances Lee Williams, was born and raised in Roanoke, Virginia.

After graduating from Woodberry Forest School in Woodberry Forest, Virginia, he earned bachelor’s and medical degrees from the University of Virginia in 1947.

While at Virginia, he was elected to membership in the national Honorary Collegiate Journalism fraternity and was managing editor of the university’s yearbook, Corks and Curls. He also was a member of Pi Delta Epsilon, Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity, Eli and IMP societies.

During the Korean War, he served in the Army Medical Corps, attaining the rank of captain.

After leaving the service, he returned to Baltimore, where he was chief resident in otolaryngology and head and neck surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He was in charge of the teaching program for the department for 17 years.

He also held teaching appointments at Hopkins as a part-time assistant professor and later as an associate professor emeritus. He served on the staff at Hopkins for 45 years and was a founder of the Hopkins Facial Restoration Clinic, which provided free services for more than 35 years for those in need from nearby states.

He also served as chief of otolaryngology at Union Memorial Hospital and Children’s Hospital, and was a consultant to the Veterans Hospital and the old U.S. Public Health Services Hospital in Wyman Park. He also wrote widely for medical journals and contributed chapters to medical textbooks.

Additionally, Dr. Williams was a member of the Baltimore Colts medical team for 16 years.

He retired in 1989 and in his retirement wrote “Sinusitis Help Book,” explaining the disorder to medical students and laypersons. At 96, he was still actively writing.

His professional memberships included being a Diplomate of the American Board of Otolaryngology, a member of the American Academy of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgeons, American Broncho-Esophageal Association, Society of Medical Consultants to the Armed Forces, American Medical Association, Medical Chirurgical Faculty of Maryland, and Baltimore City Medical Society and Virginia Medical Society.

“Lee Williams was a large gentleman, who was large in physical stature, ability and personality,” said Dr. William F. Fritz, a retired Riderwood internist and friend of many years. “His surgical skills were well-recognized by his peers, and his attentive care of his patients was legion. His willingness to be called for treatment day or night was one of his many virtues.

Dr. Fritz added: “He was a delightful raconteur, sailor, hunter and very competitive in any sport he played. He hated to lose.”

He and his wife, longtime residents of Overhill Road in Guilford, and later Devon Hill in North Roland Park, moved in the 1990s to Irvington on Virginia’s Northern Neck.

“There they could enjoy the water from their beautiful home, " Dr. Fritz said.

Before leaving Baltimore, Mrs. Williams played tennis and golf competitively at the Elkridge Club, where she and her husband were members. She made at least two holes-in-one and won many tournaments.

In her 94th year, her daughter said, Mrs. Williams was still hoping that she, her daughter and brother would play tennis together at Indian Wells in California.

In Irvington, she served on the board of the Chesapeake Academy and the foundation board of Rappahannock Westminster-Canterbury.

Dr. Williams was a member of the Sons of the Revolution, Society of Colonial Wars, and the Society of the Cincinnati. In addition to the Elkridge Club, he was a member of the Maryland Club, Green Spring Valley Hunt Club, Johns Hopkins Club and Indian Creek Yacht and Country Club.

He enjoyed tennis, golf, fishing and hunting, and teaching his children and grandchildren how to fish and sail.

An accomplished yachtsman, Dr. Williams enjoyed racing with his sons in the Hospice Regattas as well as in the Nationals at Annapolis. One of his most satisfying accomplishments was winning the Yankee Point Yacht Club’s Single-Handed-Racer of the Year Award at 72 while sailing alone in his 24-foot Raven sloop, the Poe Bird.

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The couple died eight days apart in their home. “It’s like they made a pact,” Ms. Kimball said.

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“They would sit and hold hands and he died a few days later. He never wanted her to be alone,” said a son, Phillip Lee Williams of Irvington. “Their mission was complete.”

Mr. Williams recalled the day his stepmother died.

“She told me the only regret she had was that she would ‘never meet her great-grandchildren,’ ” Mr. Williams said.

Plans for a joint celebration-of-life gathering for the couple in August at historic Christ Episcopal Church near Irvington are incomplete.

In addition to her daughter and stepson, Mrs. Williams is survived by a son, Frederick William Brune of Bellingham, Washington; a brother, Paul Ten Hoopen of Naples, Florida; a sister, Joan Harris of Cashiers, North Carolina, three other stepchildren; three grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

In addition to his son, Phillip Lee Williams, Dr. Williams is survived by another son, David Lee Williams of Carlisle, Pennsylvania; two daughters, Jenny Williams Robinson of Lynden, Washington, and Frances Williams Butler of Centennial, Colorado; two stepchildren; 12 grandchildren; and 14 great-grandchildren.

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