This morning I woke up to an email from Greenhill’s alumni director to members of my class. Kim Williams, a classmate of mine and a very close friend when I was in school, passed away on Tuesday. For as long as I’d known her (since 1983), Kim had been battling health problems, primarily severe asthma. Apparently in recent years, she had been having seizures, pulmonary embolisms, and even a heart attack. I hadn’t been in touch with her since my sophomore year or so of college, but I know she had been in medical school off and on, taking leaves of absence fairly often to deal with her health. There’s no word on exactly how she died, but she was at her parents’ house in Dallas currently on leave from school.
Kim was one of my first friends when I started Greenhill in 4th grade. By my 9th birthday in early October, I was good enough friends with her that she and one other girl, Cari Phillips, were the two “new school” friends at my birthday party.
Kim always had really bad allergies and was constantly blowing her nose, prompting me to give her the very kind nickname “Lava Nose.” In 6th grade, Kim, our friend Naomi,and I put together a news parody skit for a talent show, and if I recall correctly, Kim played some character inspired by her nickname whose nose came off or something like that. I was the newscaster (see headshot). And someone was Walter Mondale. It might have been Kim, but we worked the nose thing in there somewhere.
Kim and I were in band together, I think just for a year in 5th grade. I played the flute and she played the clarinet, but then switched to choir in 6th grade. She had a really nice voice, and in 10th grade when I had a callback for the spring musical “Annie,” she helped with the my song (and I got the part). We were on the volleyball team together in junior high (and maybe freshman year?), and we had a healthy competition in french class from about 6th grade until graduation. We went to summer camp together one year. I think somewhere in the last couple of years of high school we drifted apart a little, but I do remember being at some kind of small gathering of friends at her house just before we all went off to college, going to stay in some cabin with her and some other friends the summer after that, and visiting her at Dartmouth when my improv group went there my sophomore year. That’s my last vivid memory of her.
Kim was incredibly smart and always wanted to be a doctor. I used to tease her because she was always reading books about kids with leukemia, cystic fibrosis and other upbeat things. Things that could have and may have been made into Lifetime movies. I feel weird saying it now, but I always called them “death books.” I’d ask what she was reading and she’d smile and say “another death book,” and then show me the cover and it would be a man and woman huddled around a hospital bed with a sick child in it and the title would be something along the lines of “A Special Place in Heaven.” And then often a subtitle like “The Ruth Martleson story.”
Kim was a true friend for what was arguably the most awkward period of my life. She acknowledged my weirdness and went right along with it. I’m not a parent, but I have a feeling she’s the kind of friend a parent would always hope that their kid would have. I’m lucky I did.