News and Insights

My Grandmother: A Story of Strength and Resilience

March 14, 2022

When I reflect on the magnitude of this month and the decades of women who have shaped and fought for the freedoms that I currently hold so dear, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the woman who truly inspired my current path—Ann Moran Williams. My grandmother, “Mimi,” as I affectionately call her, is a trailblazer. Mimi was born on August 22, 1929, to Matthew and Rena Moran in the tiny coastal town of Block Island, Rhode Island. Her father, my great-grandfather, was the town postmaster and her mother, a stay-at home mom, which I assure you didn’t encompass a tenth of the tasks she conquered each day.

Mimi told me her father gave her two options for her career path; she could be a nurse or a teacher. I’m guessing her weak stomach (like mine) led her to pursue the latter, and she graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a degree in education. As fate would have it, it was around this time that she attended an Army vs. Navy football game to “chaperone” her roommate and the roommate’s boyfriend on a date. It was there on a cold Philadelphia evening that she basked in the warm glow of none other than Charles Ellis Williams, my “Popee.”

Family photo from the 1960s
Mimi, my uncle Charlie, my dad Matthew, and my Popee in the 60s.

It didn’t take long for the two to become inseparable—their main form of communication was writing letters back and forth while he served the U.S. Navy in WWII—and after their wedding they made the 13+ hour journey back home to Popee’s native North Carolina. It was here where my grandfather graduated with his law degree from Wake Forest University and my Mimi settled into teaching high school English. She later gave birth to my uncle Charlie and soon after my father, Matthew. Her days were filled with teaching, grading papers, cleaning and cooking (and yes, her meals would give Julia Child and Martha Stewart a run for their money). In her “spare” time, she would volunteer at church and work in her garden.

Many years have come and gone since this time, but the one thing I hang onto so tightly is Mimi’s innate ability to not be afraid of risk. The risk of going on a blind date, falling in love and moving 800 miles away from home. The risk of settling into a new city where you’re not a local and getting plugged into the community. The risk of asking “How can I help?” In her case, the answer to that last question might get you signed up to volunteer at a horse farm with disabled youth or take in a child in need of a home for a period of time.

little girl with her grandma

I had the privilege of living with Mimi after graduating from Samford University. I was 22, working my first advertising agency job and had no money. The highlight of my days was pulling into the driveway and seeing her smiling face greeting me at the kitchen window. We sat on her patio countless hours that year, solving all of the world’s problems with a glass of Pino Grigio in hand. I’ll treasure that time for the rest of my life.

Mimi is 92 now and we’re still solving the world’s problems together (albeit, in a nursing home and without the wine, sadly). Her strength and resiliency through all of life’s unknowns is something I will always admire about her. She tells me often that I can do anything, and that to me is what Women’s History Month is all about.