HUNTINGTON, WV (WOWK) – The one-year anniversary of Hershel “Woody” Williams’ passing is just a few days away – but his legacy and impact are still living on.
Williams was born on Oct. 2, 1923, and grew up in Quiet Dell, West Virginia. He died on June 29, 2022, in Huntington, West Virginia. He was 98.
Williams was the last living WWII Medal of Honor recipient. He joined the United States Marine Corps and served in the Battle of Iwo Jima with the 21st Marines, 3d Marine Division.
Williams received the Medal of Honor on Oct. 5, 1945, from President Harry S. Truman for his “actions, commitment to his fellow service members, and heroism,” according to the Woody Williams Foundation website.
“The lives that he touched in the Gold Star Family community was indescribable really. He touched a lot of people, he really did,” Williams’ grandson Brent Casey said.
Even after his passing, he continues to touch more lives.
“We were best friends. He was my grandfather, but we were like best friends. Just really changed my life completely. The greatest honor that anyone could ever have,” Casey said.
He left one last wish behind: to continue his work.
“These are families who have lost someone: son, father, brother, sister, daughter. They gave the ultimate sacrifice.”
To keep Williams’ dream alive, La Famiglia in Huntington held a pick-up spaghetti dinner from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday.
All proceeds went to Woody Williams’ Gold Star Family monument complex, which will be built along Memorial Boulevard in Huntington.
La Famiglia owner Ralph Hagy said he knew Woody Williams personally through his uncle who also fought in Iwo Jima. Williams had partnered with Hagy in the past to host fundraisers.
Williams also shared the impact Hagy’s uncle made on his own life during their time in Iwo Jima.
“It was just a fact that I finally had a firsthand description of what my uncle went through, and what it meant to Woody. Woody showed respect,” Hagy said.
The monument will cost more than $51,000 to build, but those close to Williams said it’s worth it.
“Anybody that you talk to that spent any amount of time with Woody Williams left with a great feel. He just had a knack of motivating people and making people feel that they want to do better and do good. He was a good man,” friend Dan Ferguson said.