Nyal Zeno Williams

December 20, 1930November 29, 2020

Nyal Zeno Williams of Greensboro died peacefully at his residence at Friends Homes Guilford, November 29, after a long fight with renal disease and congestive heart failure. Formerly from Muncie, IN and Chapel Hill, NC, he was the firstborn of Otho Burley Williams and Glennie (McKillop) Williams, born Dec, 20, 1930, in Spindale, NC where he grew up. He graduated from Garden Webb Junior College, continuing his college studies at Baylor University to earn a Bachelors Degree in Music with honors. He was drafted into the US Army, and attached to the Belgian Army in Germany to help monitor the atomic cannon and code and decode messages between the Belgian and US Armies. After his army discharge, he returned to Baylor and earned a Masters Degree in Musicology. After marriage to another Baylor music graduate, they moved to Chapel Hill where he began work on a Ph.D in musicology. He worked full time as assistant music librarian at UNC, slowing progress on his doctoral study. He joked that he crammed a four-year study into ten years. He also completed a Master's degree in Library Science.

In 1971, Ball State University asked him to develop a music library to support a new music doctoral program. He accepted the challenge, and besides serving as Music Librarian, worked as interim Director of Bracken Library, Chair of Library Faculty, and retired as tenured full professor in 1995.

However, his real passion was flying -- especially gliders. He was a certified flight instructor in gliders and taught gliding for the Tar Heel Soaring Club (which he helped organize) in Burlington, NC. Later he was chief instructor for the Central Indiana Soaring Society in Indianapolis. His gliding achievements and awards included soaring cross country for a distance of over 186 miles in one flight, and climbing to an altitude of over 16,000 feet in another. He was awarded the Wright Brothers "Master Pilot" Award by the FAA's Dept. of Transportation, an award that included recognition of 50 years of maintaining aviation safety. Five other flying awards were presented to him. After his health grounded him, he turned to teaching gliding on the Condor simulator using Skype to connect with students all over the country.

He was a life member of Soaring Society of America and a past member of Kiwanis, Muncie Sailing Club, Faculty Sponsor for the Ball State Sailing Club, Binkley Baptist Church, Chapel Hill, and Central Christian Church, Muncie, where he sang in the choir and served as Deacon.

Nyal was predeceased by his parents, his brother, Athal K. Williams, Kent, WA, two brothers-in-law, Wally Chateauvert, Larchmont, NY, Dan Pipkin, Danville, IL, and two beloved whippets, Cedric Weehunt and Twiggy. He is survived by his loving wife of 63 years, Yvonne Barnthouse Williams and his daughter, Elisabeth Dawn Williams (Jeff Potter), Northampton, MA, a sister-in-law, Betty Chateauvert, Rye, NY, plus several nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews.

Nyal and his wife enjoyed serving as "Friendship Family" to international students attending Ball State from all over the world. Nyal will be remembered for his collection of colorful suspenders, his love of English grammar, words and puns, and his sense of humor, as well as for his fondness for playing pop songs from the 30s and 40s on the piano. In his last few days of life, he was constantly singing old songs running through his head.

A celebration of his life will be held at a later date. Memorials may be made to the Authoracare Collective (Hospice), 2500 Summit Ave., Greensboro, NC 27405.


Nyal Zeno Williams

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Jackson Hill

December 4, 2020

Nyal's death is sad news. Martha and I send love and sincere condolences to the family. I am so pleased that we were able to reconnect recently after such a long period of being out of touch. We have such good memories of times in Chapel Hill in the 1960s, especially exchanging pleasantries when we were not creating administrative mischief in the music library at UNC. Nyal's sense of humor and the propensity of turning things into good fun will be long remembered. Good times, good memories. Love from Jack and Martha.

Susan Potter

December 3, 2020

Dear Nyal,
I treasure the fact that I was able to meet you and Yvonne a few times, even though we live far apart. I felt I'd known you forever. Your talents and humor are in my mind right now. It will seem strange for you to share Christmas in a less-than-traditional way; maybe with all the "virtual" sharing we've all been doing, we'll find a way to make it work! You are blessed with the wonderful family you deserve, and they with you. I pray that peace of mind will attend you, Yvonne, Betsy-Dawn, and all your family and friends. Better days will come. I look forward to sharing some Christmas music with you. Wear your red suspenders.
Thinking of you with love,
Sue Potter (in Vermont)