JACKSON, Tenn. – Sept. 23, 2013 – For those who knew her best, Leighton Williams will be remembered for the joyful way she lived.
“Leighton was one of those, she walked in a room and you knew she was there, because she brought joy to everyone she was around,” said Savannah Hari, president of Union’s Chi Omega chapter, of which Williams was a member. "She was such a perfect, perfect picture of a friend and a sister.”
Williams, a senior nursing major at Union from Old Hickory, Tenn., died early Sept. 21 at Vanderbilt University Medical Center after a Friday night car accident as she drove from Jackson to Nashville. Her sister, Union sophomore Ashton Williams, was a passenger in the vehicle and was treated at the hospital for her injuries before being released.
About 300 students, faculty and staff gathered in front of White Hall Sunday evening for a prayer service.
“We remember her joyful spirit, her smile, her laughter, her conscientiousness, her love for all of you, her servant's heart, her life of intentionality,” Union President David S. Dockery told students at the service. “We are here with trust in God. Even though we are sad, shaken and shocked, with more questions than answers, we come, however, as people who express hope in a God who raises the dead, the God who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God who is the God of all comfort, the Father of all compassion, the God who is faithful when tragedy enters our world in a very personal way.”
Hillarie Henderson, a junior from Jonesboro, Ark., and a close friend of Williams, described her as “my calm during my storms.”
“She never had a bad thing to say about anybody,” Henderson said. “She never picked sides. You know, girl drama – she never wanted to pick sides. She was everyone’s friend. She never met a stranger.”
LeeAnne Wilhite, assistant professor of nursing, said from the moment she met Williams during orientation, she noticed how “she was just joyous all the time.”
"You can teach people the skill of nursing,” Wilhite said. “And you can try to instill a passion and a love for what you're doing. Leighton would just absorb that -- every ounce of it. She was a nurse from the beginning. She had a true passion for it.”
Todd Brady, Union’s vice president for university ministries, told students that while hearts may be grieved because of Williams’ death, followers of Christ are able to look up and look forward.
“Our faith does not diminish our grief in times like this, but in times like this, we realize that God has given us hope, and he has given us one another,” Brady said.
Williams, 20, is survived by her parents, Kelly and David Hollister and Scott and Deb Williams; grandparents, Billy and Peggy Dean, Wayne and Joyce Williams and Gary and Judy Hollister; siblings, Andrew, Ashton and Austin Williams, Brittany and Anna Hollister and Evan and Olivia Miller; longtime boyfriend, Union student Wacey Russell; and several aunts, uncles and cousins.
She was a graduate of Donelson Christian Academy in Nashville and was the social chair for Union’s Chi Omega chapter.
Visitation will be Tuesday from 3-6 p.m. at Hermitage Hills Baptist Church in Nashville. The funeral will follow at 6:30 p.m. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Make-A-Wish Foundation.