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Obituary for Gloria L. Williams
Gloria L. Williams was born in North Philadelphia on October 9, 1927. She was the daughter of the late Hubert F. and Sylvia Fisher Pressly. Gloria was known as a kind and loving mother who was not only exceptionally smart, but timelessly beautiful as well. To those who knew her well, she was much more than that. Gloria could literally do anything she set her mind to. She was fiercely independent and refused to be dependent upon anyone. Although she dedicated much of her adult life to caring for her husband and children, she had a successful career as a teacher in the Philadelphia School District.
Educated in the Philadelphia Public School System, Gloria attended Thomas Fitzsimons Junior High School in North Philadelphia and was offered placement at the Philadelphia High School for Girls, but followed her friends to Germantown High School, where she graduated in January of 1945.
Between high school and college, Gloria worked as a secretarial assistant at the Philadelphia Quartermaster Depot, where she learned how to type proficiently, a skill that proved instrumental in Gloria’s life.
In the fall of 1945, Gloria entered Howard University. She was quickly recognized by a professor who gave a long intelligence test to all his new students. One day he called Gloria into his office and said in so many words, “Who are you?” The test had been administered for 20 years and Gloria received the highest score in the history of the test. To quote Gloria, “You could have knocked me over with a feather.”
At Howard, Gloria met her future husband, Judge Robert W. Williams Jr., and they married in July of 1947, eventually moving to West Philadelphia in 1950 and West Mount Airy in 1958, where they raised their four children. The two were married for 29 years.
To help buy their first house, Gloria secured a job as a typist at the Veterans Administration after receiving a 97 on the Civil Service exam. She was the fastest, most accurate typist in the typing pool and the unit director promoted her to his personal secretary.
In February of 1963, Gloria and her husband were invited to the White House to meet President Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline, shortly before his assassination. Prominent Black Americans from all around the country had been invited to a reception celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.
While raising her four children and married to a prominent attorney, Gloria returned to college in 1964 at the age of 36, enrolling at University of Pennsylvania. She made the Dean’s List with Distinction in her first year and graduated with honors in 1967.
Gloria’s first job after graduation was teaching Spanish at the Philadelphia High School for Girls. She became fluent in Spanish and French at college after speaking neither as a child. To maintain her fluency in Spanish, she had a daily one-hour telephone conversion with a friend.
Gloria also worked for the Philadelphia Model Cities Program, the Pennsylvania Bureau of Motor Vehicles, as a teacher of the safe driving course, the Family Court of Philadelphia, and then at the Philadelphia Board of Education’s Desegregation Unit.
After eight years with the Desegregation Unit, Gloria decided to return to teaching. She took a loan, went to Temple University, and earned her Master’s degree in 1984. Throughout her teaching career in Philadelphia, Gloria taught in a number of high schools, including a second stint at the Philadelphia High School for Girls, Kensington High School, Franklin Learning Center, University City High School, Julia B. Douglass Middle School and West Philadelphia High School.
Gloria also tutored students having trouble with Spanish free of charge in her home. The mother of one student wrote a letter saying her daughter was a serious student but just couldn’t get the hang of Spanish and walked around with her shoulders slumped over. She wrote that after just a few sessions with Gloria, she got it, and now there was a spring in her step and she had her daughter back. This made Gloria especially happy and brought tears to her eyes.
In addition to teaching and tutoring, Gloria volunteered at the Nationalities Services Center in West Philadelphia teaching English to immigrants.
One of Gloria’s many other talents was sewing, from clothing to draperies, and she taught her youngest son how to use a sewing machine.
After her retirement in 1993, Gloria remained active in photography and desktop publishing. She was tech savvy and knew her way around a computer, an uncommon skill for her generation. She produced annual invitations for Club Circle-Lets, custom birthday cards, and was known for her detailed photo albums. Her typing skills translated well to desktop computing and it became her passion in retirement.
Gloria was an active member of Club Jade from 1962 and Club Circle-Lets since 1964. At Howard University, Gloria was a member of Delta Sigma Theta’s Alpha Chapter.
Diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer in 2014 at the age of 87, Gloria astonished her doctors with her good health, having none of the ailments typical of a woman her age. She underwent radiation and chemotherapy and literally stunned doctors with her complete recovery. She had a very sizable tumor and after treatment, it was undetectable. Her doctors said they have never witnessed anything like it. Her strength and courage during treatment and recovery were nothing short of admirable. Gloria Williams was truly a remarkable woman with many abilities and accomplishments.
Gloria lived life on her own terms and maintained her independence until the very end. She always had time for her family, keeping them together through the generations and leaving a legacy of love and inspiration to the many who loved her. She will be truly missed by family and friends alike.
Gloria passed away peacefully on Friday, May 12, 2023 at the age of 95 with her family by her side. In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by her brother, Hubert F. Pressly, Jr. Surviving are her four children, Robert W. Williams III, Ronald K. Williams, Gail P. Williams (Dawn L. McCall) and Barry C. Williams. She also leaves behind six grandchildren, Vanessa Dreyer (Andrew Dreyer), Sarah DiTomasso, Robert Williams IV, Julian Williams, Ricardo Williams and Madeleine Williams; and seven great-grandchildren, Andrew Dreyer, Justin Dreyer, Jaedyn DiTomasso, Giovanni DiTomasso, Sophia Williams, Zane Williams and Ever Williams.