It is with heavy hearts that the family of Marija Laima Gilvydis Williams of East Longmeadow, MA announces her passing on May 21, 2021.
Marija was born in 1934 to Alfonsas and Elena Gilvydis in Lithuania. The youngest daughter of six children, her life was thrown into turmoil at an early age with the Russian invasion of Lithuania during World War II. Her father Alfonsas was the Vice President of Parliament at the time, and it was imperative that he and the family flee the country. They did so on foot, under the cover of night with the backdrop of the raging war. Eventually, Marija and her family reached Germany safely and lived as refugees in the DP camps there for several years. Despite the circumstances, the closeness of family and the bustling village-like atmosphere of the camps, opened in her a sense of connection, amazement, and joy. Ever after, she was a bright light among people, happiest when there was lots of talking, eating, laughing, and sharing stories. In her early teens, the family emigrated to the United States, where they landed in Detroit, MI. There, Marija would blossom into a beautiful young woman with a deep appreciation for the arts and a fantastic sense of humor. She studied ballet, though she admitted she was no ballerina. She learned English quickly and, before long, attended Wayne State University where she met her husband Peter Williams. Together, the couple moved to Menomonie, WI where Marija took a job at the Bell Atlantic phone company and the couple adopted their first child, Maria Elena Williams (of Shelburne Falls, MA). They moved back to Detroit after a couple of years, and Marija gave birth to their son, Peter Albert Williams (of Holyoke, MA.) A devoted mother, devout Catholic, and talented homemaker, Marija’s family became her life. But that didn’t mean she would stay at home. When they moved to New England, she went to work, first as a factory worker at Phelon’s in East Longmeadow and then in the call center for The Wall Street Journal where she stayed for over twenty years. While she missed her big boisterous Lithuanian community, Marija connected with Lithuanians in Hartford and soon made many friends. She and the family attended Lithuanian church, Lithuanian summer camp, and Lithuanian dance troups. Otherwise, New England’s natural beauty filled Marija with awe and joy. She took to backroad driving to see the trees and the cows. When she became a grandmother, first to Lyric Williams-Russell and then to Maya Williams-Russell (both of Shelburne Falls), she found her highest calling—doting on them, sharing family recipes, and showering them with gifts and praise. Deeply-loved, admired for her courage and bright personality, and appreciated for her hard work by her family and all who knew her, Marija will be dearly missed. May she find her greatest happiness in heaven.
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