Breakfast for Don Williams is a matter of routine. His place of choice is the Vintage Inn Restaurant where he is welcomed by name and does not need to look at the menu to know what he wants to order. He drinks his cup of coffee over the course of the meal. And then another cup and maybe a little more of the next refill he received. He has his to-go coffee cup filled with decaf on his way out and he will continue to sip on it even after it has cooled down. After waving to people across the restaurant and stopping and saying hi to a few on his way out, Williams, with his cowboy hat perched on the top of his head, is ready to begin another full day.
While he retired in 1991 from his job at Weyheuser where he worked for 37 years, by looking at his schedule you wouldn’t know that Williams, who is 81, has slowed down.
He is currently the President of Friends of the CG Carousel Committee and the co-chair of TEAM Cottage Grove in addition to being an active member of the tourism committee, the Covered Bridge Festival and the Rotary Club of Cottage Grove. And if he isn’t on a project now, there is a good chance that he worked on itbefore handing it off to someone else.
“I try to get things set up and then fade out into the background,” said the ever-active Williams.
And he wouldn’t have it any other way. After getting transferred at Weyheuser, he moved to Cottage Grove from Everett, Washington in 1975 and has enjoyed it ever since.
Williams explained that since he was as young as eight years old his family would go on trips and when they were in small towns he would always read the local newspaper and look at the community events that were going on.
“I would pick up the paper and was into local small town events,” said Williams. “I just like small town America.”
But for him it is not just about the little things that make a small town great it is the relationships and the people he has met. Being active and involved in the community for over 40 years has made it so Williams knows what seems like the entire town.
As he drives through residential neighborhoods in town, he quickly identifies a house that someone of local prominence once lived in and rattles off their story. They used to be police chief, he recites. That person was on the school board in the ‘80s and that family has a lot of people in town.
All around the community, from the fire station to Kimwood Corporation to the spay and neuter clinic, Williams can walk in and is embraced for just being him.
He then is quick to tell a story about the owner of the place and ask them about their personal life. He flashes his bright smile and gives a hug and then is on his way.
“I know the people and their buttons,” said Williams. “I can play buttons in the community because I know the people.”