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Bury St Edmunds: Saint Edmund Pacers chairman Stephen Williams remembered




A stalwart of several sports clubs, who inspired many by courageously continuing with running after his cancer diagnosis, has died aged 66.

Stephen Williams was known to hundreds as the director of Saint Edmund Pacers and for enthusiastically supporting Bury St Edmunds parkrun, while he was also a passionate member of West Suffolk Wheelers cycling team and West Suffolk Motor Club.

He died on June 2 after a long illness, leaving behind wife Nancy, daughters Dawn, 41, and Donna, 40, and grandson Callum, five.

Saint Edmunds Pacers gather before running to the funeral of Stephen Williams
Saint Edmunds Pacers gather before running to the funeral of Stephen Williams

Club members of Saint Edmund Pacers paid their final respects by running to his funeral yesterday (Thursday, June 11).

Bury St Edmunds parkrun participants also joined in as groups of six ran from the town’s athletics track to West Suffolk Crematorium, around two miles away. The runners, keeping two meters apart, then formed a guard of honour.

Williams died on June 2 after a long battle with cancer. As well as being club chairman from 2011, he was also an enthusiastic member of West Suffolk Wheelers and West Suffolk Motorsport Club.

Read more: Suffolk Sports Awards winner Stephen Williams given latest standing ovation by Saint Edmund Pacers team-mates

Stephen Williams presented Verity Valentine with a Junior Athlete of The Year prize
Stephen Williams presented Verity Valentine with a Junior Athlete of The Year prize
“Stephen was hugely popular and very well known in the running world in the region."

Many will have known him as a runner and volunteer at the Nowton Park parkrun, and several participants honoured his memory by running 5km near their homes at 9am on Saturday.

Pacers press secretary Kim Swan said: “Stephen was hugely popular and very well known in the running world in the region.

“He was always representing the Pacers superbly and being a passionate advocate of parkrun, which he attended each week in Nowton Park. He both participated and marshalled, depending on what his health allowed, but was always present to offer encouragement.”

As a cyclist, Williams took part in the National Team Time Trial in 1994 alongside Barry Denny, Steve Newman, and Keith Prendergast, which took place around Bury. With Denny, he set Wheelers tandem records for 30 and 50 mile time trials.

He also competed in club-level motorsport and won regional events in Mini classes and time trials.

Stephen Williams (184) in his element
Stephen Williams (184) in his element

Mr Swan said: “He changed the lives of many people in the sporting world in the region and will be very sadly missed by all those who were lucky enough to have known him. In Stephen’s life there was never the word ‘can’t’, it was always ‘you can, you just haven’t learned yet’: a tremendous mantra that sums up his attitude to life.”

Mr Williams was born in West Suffolk Hospital and lived in Stowlangtoft, before moving to Bury with his family in 1965. After studying engineering, he began an apprenticeship with Robert Boby but, after being made redundant, excelled as a car salesman before qualifying and working in finance.

Mr Williams is described by friends as ‘a busy man,’ and built his own house, where he lived with his first wife Linda and his two daughters. He aimed to retire at 50, but was able to leave work at 49, and became chairman of the Pacers in 2011.

Read next: Olly Hughes completes Bury Town fund-raising marathon amid tough conditions

Stephen Williams welcomes Rwandan runners with Robert Kajuga and Jean Pierre Mvuyekure to Bury St Edmunds
Stephen Williams welcomes Rwandan runners with Robert Kajuga and Jean Pierre Mvuyekure to Bury St Edmunds

Mr Swan added: “He was so supportive to runners of all abilities. He encouraged and motivated many local runners to achieve far more than they thought possible.”

Mr Williams suffered ill health for much of his final 20 years, undergoing countless operations and courses of treatment for sarcoma and bowel cancer. With Nancy’s support, he was able to continue running –sometimes just a few days after an operation. He was also ‘always’ atparkrun, running or marshalling.

Last year he received the Elena Baltacha ‘Triumph over Adversity’ Award, the West Suffolk Sports ‘Triumph over Adversity’ Award, and a special Saint Edmund Pacers award for his ‘outstanding contribution’.

Donna, a stunt double and star of Gladiators, said: “Dad was always able to reassure me in a warm, calm, and quiet manner and always managed to get the best out of me.”


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