The sun had yet to rise Friday, April 15, when Jana Williams got the call.
“My niece called me, to tell me what happened,” Williams remembers vividly. “Then the ambulance driver called me after that.”
The news from the other end of the phone was what parents’ nightmares are made of. Williams’ middle son, Ethan, was involved in a car accident – and the 21-year-old man who she nursed and loved his whole life was critically injured.
Reports from the Texas Department of Public Safety state the accident occurred when the truck Ethan Williams was driving hit a culvert on Texas 62, approximately a mile from FM 2802, around 2 a.m. Friday morning. Three passengers were also in the truck with Ethan, one of whom was also injured in the wreck. The injured passenger, 22-year-old Aysna Aras of Orange, was transported to the Intensive Care Unit of St. Elizabeth Hospital in Beaumont, but is expected to recover from a broken pelvis. The other two passengers, 19-year-old Katelyn Hayes of Orange and 19-year-old Lauren Jones of Orange, did not report any injuries.
Ethan sustained tremendous injuries in the wreck, but as the hours progressed with family and friends waiting in the trauma unit of a Beaumont hospital his prognosis was grim. Prayers from supporters and intensive medical treatment persisted throughout Friday, but on Saturday Ethan succumbed to his injured shy of his 22nd birthday. A memorial was held Wednesday night for Ethan, a lifelong resident of the Deweyville area, as mourners remembered a young man whose life was filled with happiness and love for his close-knit family and his small-town community. A funeral service was held Thursday, April 21, at the Deweyville United Pentecostal Church.
“He was a very outgoing young man with an awesome sense of humor,” his mother remembers. “His closest friends are actually his cousins, who he moved across the street from, and he shared a place with his best friend from high school.”
Williams said her son was always full of life and optimism, and could turn even the bleakest moments into a funny adventure with his witty anecdotes. His brothers, one older and one younger, will miss him sorely, she said.
“They’re taking it pretty rough, but they’re doing good by the grace of God,” Williams said. She added that both brothers have asked to speak at funeral, saying; “They feel it is the last thing they can do to honor their brother.”
Family friend and Vidor Councilman Matt Ortego, who works as a sheriff’s deputy in the Newton County/ Deweyville community, also has fond memories to share of Ethan, and the entirety the Williams family.
“When I came to work at the Newton County Sheriff’s in mid March of 2010, I met a lady named Jana Williams who worked at the Deweyville Sub-Court house in the motor vehicle office next door to the Sheriff’s Substation. Jana I became friends as we would work together daily. A few weeks later I would be introduced to her family as they would come in and visit her. I eventually met her three boys - Zane, Ethan, Seth - and her husband Jimmy, her mother, brother, sister and many more. I cannot even begin to remember at this time. I was astonished by the family members she had and the ones I would meet. Anyone whose family would come and visit you as often as she does tells you one thing about a family and one word describes it - LOVE!” Ortego went on to say, “Little did I know as the months would come and go I would feel that the entire Williams family was now apart of my family as well.”
According to the deputy, the three sons would come by the sub-station to see who could “pick on Jana the best,” he joked. His tone was more somber as he recounted the call he received alerting him to the tragedy unfolding in the Williams’ lives.
“I received a phone call about 8 a.m. April 15th, 2011, telling me Ethan was involved in an accident and he was at (St. Elizabeth Hospital) in Beaumont. I got dressed as fast as my body would move and went to see about my boy. Friday he was in critical condition and it would only get worse until he passed away.
“When I received the news Ethan had passed away, I cried and cried some more. I still cry today and probably will for a while - just as well as his parents, siblings, family and the community of Deweyville will. If there was one last thing I could have said to Ethan it would have been ‘you won.’
“Why do I say that, you’re probably thinking? Well, because if you knew Ethan, he was competitive in the sports that he played - football, basketball, baseball. Although I didn’t know him at the time he was active in all that, just ask around or maybe Google his name and you will see what I am talking about. Ethan made the biggest homerun, touchdown, slam dunk of his career when he entered the gates of Heaven. Ethan was a unique person about the things he done in his life. He was a leader, not a follower. He would give the shirt off his back to you if you asked. He might have given you a hard time (jokingly) but eventually he would do it.
“After he passed away Ethan still gave, his mom and dad donated his organs to give someone else hope in their life. That says a lot; Jana and Jimmy just lost a son and still thought of others. WOW! How amazing? As a father myself, I could not sit here and tell you I could have thought of doing something like it at the moment if I had lost my child.”
Williams, although grieving the loss of her child as if she lost a piece of herself, is still thankful for the support she has received in the wake of what has been the biggest heart-wrenching devastation to ever hit the Williams household.
“God, and the love of family and friends has really been what’s gotten us through this,” Williams said. “Being a part of this Deweyville community is a real blessing.
“There’s good and bad everywhere, but the good by far outweighs the bad here. Here, they don’t just say the words; they go the extra mile. With the help of God, and such wonderful family and friends, we will get through this – one minute at a time.”
Ortego agreed that the community as a whole is grieving the loss of one of its own.
“We’re all experiencing something we didn’t think we would have to experience this early in life. We are all heartbroken, but as a community and family we have to lean on one another for emotional support. As it says in the scriptures, the count down is getting closer everyday and we shall all meet again. When I say goodbye and everyone else says goodbye, it’s only temporary like a phone conversation. We will meet again, but the next time it’s in the presence of Jesus Christ.”
Williams said she remembers the last time she spoke with her son, the Wednesday before he was killed. She said they talked about an Easter crawfish boil, an upcoming alumni football game at his high school alma mater and how the coffee tasted. Had she known then what she knows now, the conversation would have played out differently.
“I’d like to have told him one more time how much I love him,” she said through silent tears. “He knows, but I just want to say it once more.”
Still drawing from the optimism Ethan provided abundantly during his life, Williams finishes her thoughts on a happy note. “We have more to go to Heaven for now than we did yesterday, and I know I’ll get the chance to tell him I love him again.”
Ethan, who was raised in the Devil’s Pocket area around Deweyville, was laid to rest next to his childhood friend, who died when he was 12 years old, at the Suddeth Bluff Cemetery.
“He’ll be close to the water,” Williams said lovingly. “He loved fishing and hunting, and he loved being close to home.”