Leonora A. Williams, 82, former long-time English Department head at Fay School


Leonora A. WilliamsO divine master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console.

Craigville – Leonora Ann Shannon Williams passed peacefully on Monday, March 3rd. She was surrounded by her immediate family: her sons, Todd and Mark, Todd’s daughters Annabelle and Abby, and his partner, Kathryn Miles.

Lee was born to George and Leonora Shannon on June 22, 1940 in Newton, Massachusetts. She had five siblings: George, Patricia, John, Jerry, and Marty Shannon. Lee attended The Sacred Heart School in Newton, Massachusetts. She was a graduate of Trinity College in Washington DC.

Lee spent her summers growing up on Cape Cod in the small village of Hyannis Port, where children roamed barefoot, sunburned, salt-encrusted, and with seaweed tangling their hair. A defining figure in Lee’s childhood was the Sailing Master of the Hyannis Port Yacht Club, John Linehan. John, like Lee’s family members, was a kind and fiercely intrepid Irish Catholic whose sailing instruction philosophy followed a creed of “what does not kill young sailors will only make them stronger.” Under his instruction, Lee began racing Sailfish, Albacores, and Wianno Junior sailboats. In between her sail training and races, she was known to regularly swim over two miles from the West Beach Club and around the Hyannisport breakwater, before finally making landfall back at the yacht club.

During her long and storied sailboat racing career, Lee achieved national acclaim by winning the Southern Massachusetts Women’s Championship with her teammates Mary Gleim and Connie (Moore) Tracy. The team also qualified to compete in the Northeast Championships in Camden, Maine (where her son Todd would later raise his daughters Annabelle and Abby).

Lee also met her future husband, Fred Williams of Marlborough, Massachusetts, while sailboat racing at the Hyannisport Yacht Club. It was an inauspicious beginning: Fred needed crew for his Wianno Senior, The Hoya, and had heard through the grapevine that Lee was one of the best. However, upon meeting her and discovering her gender, Fred attempted to prohibit Lee from boarding his boat. She persevered. And after that first race together, Fred permanently ceded the helm to Lee. They were soon after married on June 24, 1967.

Wianno Senior racing became a long-standing family tradition for Lee and Fred. Very early on, they included their sons as well, raising them in the belief that sailboat racing can (and often should) be bruising, cutthroat, and otherwise character-building. Her family’s relationship was forged by decades of intense and exhausting weekends racing a newer Wianno Senior, Touch O’ Gray.

Lee went on to be the first (and thus far only) female Commodore of the Hyannis Port Yacht Club. She officiated races there through the 2000s and also served as a US Sailing judge for many local, New England, and National Championships with the neighboring Hyannis Yacht Club.

In addition to being a loving, stalwart wife and a gentle mother with a keen ability to chart the direction of her sons, Lee was also a devoutly committed educator of middle school students in Massachusetts. She began her career as an English teacher at Millis Middle School; she later served for many years as the English Department head at The Fay School in Southboro, Massachusetts, where her sons knew better than to register for any of her classes. Nevertheless, Lee was a favorite among both day and boarding students, many of whom adoringly referred to her simply as “Ms.”

After retirement, Lee and Fred spent many happy years at their beloved home in Cape Cod’s Craigville. She was involved grandmother, who relished spending time with Annabelle and Abby. She was preceded in death by Fred in November 2021.

A Funeral Mass will be held Friday, March 24th at 11:00 am at Our Lady of Victory Church, Centerville, MA. It will be followed by a reception.

For more information or to share both expressions of sympathy and fond memories of Lee, please visit www.doanebealameshyannis.com.