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Mary Carol Williams grew up loving the outdoors. A feeling that has remained instilled in her all of her life.
Williams has lived in Los Alamos since 1972, when her husband took a job working on polymers and graphite for nuclear reactors at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. She worked as an environmental chemist at the lab until her retirement in 2002.
“Through that job, I got a lot of experience with all the different facets of the lab,” she said.
Before moving to the southwest, Williams lived on a lake in Virginia when she was young.
“There were a lot of ducks, fish, birds and all those good things,” she said. “I would paddle my canoe to visit my friend on the other end of the lake. Everyone played outside, so I’ve always been an outdoor person. We didn’t have TVs. As a consequence, I have been very active all my life in nature-related things.”
Williams was involved with Girl Scout troops and camps since I was very young. I continued as a Girl Scout leader after moving to Los Alamos. She stopped to focus on her job at the lab.
Williams remains fond of the oceans and said that she and her husband love to scuba dive. She has been diving along both United States coast, several spots in the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii and South America.
She and husband are both rescue divers and she said both her kids are divers as well.
One incident that occurred in the Caribbean sticks with her.
“We went on a guided underwater adventure,” she said. “I was enjoying all the different kinds of fish and then all of a sudden, I got rammed by a Caribbean reef shark. He knocked my gear off and left me on the bottom, circling over me. When I got up enough courage to move off the sea bottom, he followed me for the rest of the tour and never seriously hurt me.”
Her daughter and son-in-law teach the disabled how to scuba dive. He was paralyzed from the waist down after the Vietnamese Embassy bombing.
As for Williams’ work with PEEC, she has served several terms on the board of directors. “I volunteer to help with mailings, open and close for programs, work as a docent, and I am also co-chair of the landscape committee for new nature center building,” she said.
She said PEEC has offers of plant donations for the nature center. With drought conditions, she asks community members to bring plants for the Nature Center that grow successfully with minimal water. “With the recent drought conditions, we have to think about those things. We’re going to have to use plants that can survive the changing climate,” she said.
Williams tends to her own garden, as well and enjoys composting and xeriscaping, and likes to plant lots of flowers to attract birds, bees and butterflies. In the summer, I also have a vegetable garden and fruit trees. “I love the golden leaf maple in my front yard. Well, I love it for 10 months out of the year — until I have to rake up the leaves,” she said.
“Around here I especially love the chickadees, flickers and hummingbirds,” she said. “The hummingbirds will often sit on my hand and drink out of it. My grandkids just love that.”
Williams’ other hobbies include watercolor, photography and volunteering at other places around Los Alamos. She spends time at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church and is the art coordinator at the Betty Ehart Senior Center. “My warmest rewards come from working with those that are cut off from normal society. As a young teen, I spent my Saturdays caring for abandoned infants in our church’s orphanage, which left a lifelong ache in my heart.”
In her younger days, she said she flew search and rescue for the Civil Air Patrol and help in rescue operations due to her scuba background. “I miss those activities, but age has taken its toll,” she said.