Written by Jerry Iverson: a NAMI Fox Valley volunteer, friend and advocate
It is with great sadness that we share with the NAMI Fox Valley family that long-time volunteer, Mike Williams, has passed away. Mike held a special place in the hearts of the NAMI Fox Valley community. Some of you may already be aware of Mike’s passing, but we wanted to give special recognition for Mike in this newsletter.
When we recognize Mike, it is important that we also recognize his wife, Sherry. Sherry continues to volunteer for NAMI Fox Valley. Mike and Sherry were truly a “team” when it came to volunteering for NAMI Fox Valley, NAMI Wisconsin and NAMI National. They were always together when they were teaching Family to Family or advocating for NAMI programs and services.
Mike and Sherry started their journey with NAMI Fox Valley in 2002 when they first enrolled in the Family to Family program taught by Gail Schultz and Lynn Mares. They learned how to be advocates for their family’s needs and found ways to support their family in their recovery.
In 2004 Mike and Sherry went on to become Family to Family teachers. They were trained by Gail Auerbach, Claire Ryan and Barbara Jacobs. They taught many classes until Mike’s illness became more difficult. They taught Family to Family classes in Appleton, Chilton, Brillion and in churches throughout the Fox Valley Area.
In addition to teaching, Mike and Sherry were also strong advocates for mental health services with business organizations, county human services, law enforcement and local foundations. Mike served on the NAMI Fox Valley Board and later became a member of the NAMI Wisconsin Board of Directors. Any time there was a NAMI conference at the state or national level, they would be there to learn and grow in their knowledge about mental illness.
Mike and Sherry continued their advocacy by becoming Wisconsin State Family to Family trainers in 2006. This meant that they were training people all over Wisconsin to become teachers of Family to Family. They did not stop there. They helped facilitate the development of NAMI Fox Valley support groups and encouraged the formation of Peer to Peer programs and other NAMI training opportunities in the Fox Valley and Statewide.
For those that knew Mike, there was always a twinkle in his eye when he was about to tell a joke or story. His sense of humor carried the day many times. Sherry often said that Mike told jokes not to just get a laugh but to help people feel better about life’s circumstances.
In the 1990’s and early 2000’s, there were many people that were the organizers of NAMI Fox Valley and helped build the organization we see today. Working together with Mike and Sherry, they built the foundation and infrastructure for our NAMI Fox Valley of 2022. From Mike’s work over the years, he was recognized by NAMI Wisconsin with the Iris Award at the state convention in 2022. The IRIS award was given to Mike to recognize his lifetime support for NAMI programs.
We will miss Mike and all that he did for NAMI Fox Valley and the people of our communities. Sherry would like to continue her volunteer activities with NAMI as part of the “The Mike and Sherry” NAMI team.
Many times you hear reference to the adage of dropping a pebble in the water and then watch the ripples in the water flow out from that pebble. Over the last 20 years, Mike and Sherry have dropped numerous NAMI pebbles in the water and the ripples flow towards us today and will continue to flow towards us long into the future. Sherry would encourage all of us to get involved and support the ongoing work of NAMI Fox Valley, NAMI Wisconsin and NAMI National.