By Ron Hayes
BRINY BREEZES — Bev Williams was partial to bright red colors, sweet desserts and simple acts of kindness.
She was made for Christmas, and for 15 years residents of Briny Breezes seldom thought of one without the other.
“I started out just baking cookies for neighbors who were sick or alone,” she explained. “Maybe 15 people.”
That was in 1998.
By 2015, she was a holiday tradition. Beginning in September, she baked two batches of 30 cookies every day until the auditorium’s freezer held about 3,000.
Then, in the days before the holiday, she donned a bright red suit to become Mrs. Santa Claus, parading through the town in a golf cart, doling out cookies and hugs to one and all.
Mrs. Williams died Oct. 29 after a brief battle with ovarian cancer. She was 84, and had lived in Briny since 1998.
“Christmas was the big thing for her,” recalled her daughter, Laura Proffitt. “Even as kids we made all kinds of fudge and cookies and gave them to everyone in the world, so this was just an extension of her personality, and her way of making people happy.”
She didn’t do it alone.
A week or so before the parade, a gaggle of volunteer “elves” gathered in the auditorium to thaw and pack the cookies in individual bags, then accompanied Mrs. Williams on her Christmas rounds.
Nancy Bayless was the “advance elf,” knocking on doors to announce that Mrs. Santa Claus was nigh. Like many, she came to the cookie project by way of Mrs. Williams’ weekly Friday luncheons.
“We’d bring a dish and she’d always fix dessert, and she made a special punch that maybe had a little alcohol in it,” Bayless recalled. “It was just a time to get together, or maybe thank her church choir or other people for things they’d done.”
Beverly Williams was born Dec. 18, 1932, and came to Briny Breezes from Laytonsville, Maryland, where she had worked as a teacher’s aide for 28 years.
In addition to holding her Christmas cookie parade, she was a former president of the town’s swimming club, a vice president of the hobby club and provided refreshments for the travel club. She and her husband, Lewis, were proud of having visited all of the 48 contiguous states.
In 2015, she announced that her husband’s failing health would prevent her from continuing the cookie parade, but last year she continued to bake and deliver small samples to her doctor’s and dentist’s offices, her church and close friends.
In addition to her husband and daughter, she is survived by a son, Michael Williams, of Green Bay, Wis.; four grandchildren, Olivia and Nikki Proffitt and Jason and Matthew Williams; four great-grandchildren; and Cindy Pearce, a dear friend during her illness.
When Laura Proffitt went to the Panoch Funeral Home in Boca Raton to make the funeral arrangements, she spotted a large red cremation urn.
“My mother loved the color red,” she told the funeral director. “I don’t care how much it costs.”
Bev Williams’ ashes were returned to Maryland in the red urn.