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In Memoriam: Sara Katherine "Kay" Williams, FASLA

Kay Williams, FASLA / Image: Curt Millay, ASLA

Published in Athens Banner Herald; posted online onMarch 10, 2022

Sara Katherine "Kay" Williams passed away on March 6, 2022. Kay was born in Athens, Georgia on August 28, 1953 to Sara Ann Bryant Williams and Thomas Griffith "TG" Williams. She spent her childhood in Maxeys, Georgia and cherished the times and people in this unique small town.

Kay graduated from Oglethorpe County High School and then earned a Bachelor's degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Georgia and a Masters of Landscape Architecture from The Ohio State University. She was very active in Georgia 4-H and worked as a counselor at Rock Eagle 4-H Camp where she made many lifelong friends.

Kay was an Associate Professor at the University of Florida where she taught in the Department of Landscape Architecture and the Historic Preservation Program for 35 years. It was there that she met and married Robert "Bob" Grist with whom she shared both her profession and her love of nature. They built a home on Lake Tuskawilla in Micanopy, Florida and shared a love of gardening and nature, with a special affection for the numerous sandhill cranes and other bird life.

She was passionate about designing for special needs populations and accessibility with an emphasis on social and psychological components. She mentored many students both undergraduate and graduate. Among many research projects, she was involved in an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility survey for the entire Florida State University system. For the Florida Department of Transportation, she researched safe crossing corridors for the endangered Key Deer on Big Pine Key. Other U.S. Department of Transportation research included the development of design guidelines intersecting transportation systems. Her research also included many historic preservation projects like the tenant house at the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings site. One of her many legacies will be the oral histories she conducted with many historic personalities.

Kay has a long history of service to her professional society, the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). She was parliamentarian and Vice President of Education for several years, and served on the Council of Fellows Executive Committee and Fellows Jury, Landscape Architecture Accreditation Board (LAAB), and the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture (CELA) among other efforts.

Her love of travel took her around the world. As a student, she studied in Cortona, Italy. At UF, she led student groups to Italy several times. She explored megaliths in Britain, played with lemurs in Madagascar and had many other adventures on trips to Australia, Mexico, and Europe.

In addition to gardening and travel, Kay was an avid reader and a talented artist. In the past few years, she enjoyed painting in her home studio.

Kay is survived by her husband of 35 years, Robert "Bob" Grist, FASLA, and her sister Lisa Williams Shirreffs (John) of Athens and numerous nieces and nephews. Kay died of complications from pulmonary fibrosis after a long fight. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Georgia 4-H Foundation in memory of Kay Williams or at 306 Hoke Smith Annex, Athens, GA 30602.

A private memorial service will be held in Maxeys, Georgia at a later date.

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