Community activist memory, spirit alive at Village Academy School

By CRA News Service

DELRAY BEACH – When a handful of black residents fought to integrate the Atlantic Avenue beach after a local boy drowned on a rocky 100-foot stretch because he was not allowed to swim where the lifeguards supervised, Lynie Williams was with them.

And when drug dealers held residents in the south end hostage in their homes at night, she again became a fighter.

“Miss Lynie started one of the first Crime Watch programs in Delray Beach,” said Lester Lockett, who worked as a city patrolman in the mid-1970s and now is a police officer at Florida Atlantic University.

“When you realize that people don’t know how to keep their hands to themselves, when you working – trying to make a living for yourself – and you come back and find someone been in your place, it gets tiring and you have to do something, which is what she did.”

Nearly fifty years after she began her community work, Williams’ legacy is being remembered as her daughter and Williams’ former employer dedicated a plaque in her memory to Village Academy.

Williams died in 1995, and the Forrest C. Lattner Foundation awarded a “healthy donation” to the school’s Wellness Center, her daughter, Mary McCray, said. The plaque, presented recently, made the donation more formal, she said.

“A small nameplate was placed on the outside of the Wellness Center but most people didn’t see it, and I didn’t see it,” McCray told a group of parents, educators and friends recently at a ceremony.

Williams, a former restaurant operator, worked for the Lattner family in northeast Delray Beach for 30 years until she suffered a stroke.

“She worked for Forrest and Frances Lattner as a cook, housekeeper, chauffeur and caregiver,” McCray said. “She was everything to them. She was part of their family. Wherever they went, my mom went.”

Between doing her job and caring for her family, Williams found time to serve her community, many who knew her said.

On Thursdays, her only day off, she would fix a hot breakfast and open her home to the homeless and indigent.

“She lived her entire life caring for people,” McCray said.

Decarla Balam was among the many godchildren Williams raised.

“Miss Lynie took me in as her goddaughter, as her child, because I was in the streets,” said Balam, 37, who lived across the street from Williams. “I was a little bad girl and she saw how my family treated me and she told me to come across the street. I came over and she treated me just how she treated Mary Lee, her own daughter. There was no difference, she always showed me love.”

Principal Guarn Sims thanked McCray for keeping her mother’s memory and spirit alive in Village Academy.

“It’s people like your mother and so many others who paved the way for us to have what we have now,” he told McCray. “And it’s a reminder that we have to keep striving forward to really make this school what people like your mother envision it to be.”

For more on this story and photos, visit Delraybeachtribune.com.

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About Pedro Heizer

I'm a person of simple taste, all I need is some country music, Batman, Star Wars, sports, coffee, and most importantly Jesus Christ, because what profits a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? View all posts by Pedro Heizer

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