Charles Williams
1915 - 2015
Charles Edward Williams

October 2, 1915 - December 5, 2015

"Every great institution is the lengthened shadow of a single man, his character determines the character of the organization."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Chuck Williams is the personification of Emerson's "single man"
His character and integrity define the company he founded.
Charles Edward Williams was born on October 2, 1915 in Jacksonville, Florida. The world was at war, and his early youth was spent in the midst of economic depression. Like so many others, this young man headed west in the hope of finding better conditions. In the desert of southern California he found employment with a family who operated a date farm. He completed high school and then moved on to Los Angeles and a job at l.Magnin and Company, an outstanding California retailer and a company whose founder, Grover Magnin, would be influential in Chuck Williams' future.

In the early 1940's, prior to America's entry into World War Il, Chuck Williams joined the Lockheed Company and traveled to India and the Near East doing airplane maintenance in support of the

British (and later the American) air force. When the war ended he moved to the small town of

Sonoma, California, obtained a contractor's license, and built and sold several houses. He also bought a small building which contained several small stores, and kept for himself the hardware store at the end of the row. The hardware soon gave way to cookware, and so began Williams-Sonoma in 1956.

Chuck and several of his friends in Sonoma enjoyed cooking together. He had learned cooking skills as a boy at his Grandmother's side. After the war a few members of the group traveled to France to enrich their culinary experience. Chuck was awed by the array of fine cookware, none of which could be found at home. He was the one who brought copper and porcelain and pots of all sizes to the American market. And much later, iconic items such as Cuisinart and Fini Balsamico among the countless items he discovered and imported.
His devoted Sonoma customers urged him to move to San Francisco, and in 1958 he did so. Service to his customers (friends) was the signature of the Williams-Sonoma store. Here, in his own words, is his business ethic:
"Right from the beginning, in 1958, when I opened the door at 576 Sutter Street in San Francisco for my first customers, I wanted them to enjoy their visit. I wanted to show them pots and pans that they may not have seen before. I wanted to answer their questions with knowledge and confidence. I wanted to remember their names. I wanted them as friends as well as customers. Over the years, that has not changed, It is still the foundation Williams-Sonoma is built on. Service to our customers!"
This dedication to service and quality was his hallmark and it became the goal of everyone who worked with him, It became the heart of the Williams-Sonoma culture, His long association with Howard Lester was one of mutual admiration and respect. Each man understood and admired the expertise of the other. Chuck's incredible merchandising skills and Howard's management ability were the forces that created the years of expansion without losing the original ideals of the unique kitchenware store that began in Sonoma.
Chuck Williams was a mentor to countless aspiring chefs and food writers, and a benefactor to numerous charitable organizations. On his eightieth birthday the Bancroft Library published an oral history, a detailed account of his life and achievements.
Recognition of his work and influence has come from all over the world. His office is filled with mementoes and citations, along with the numerous books which he edited in collaboration with Weldon Owen Publishing, and the countless cookbooks, old and new, which he collected over the years.
Chuck Williams has enriched the lives of all of us with his friendship and integrity. His legacy will endure and as he said, "No other business started so small and select then grew to its current level with the same customer base. It has not wavered from its original mandate of quality and outstanding customer service."

May it ever be so.

At his request there will be no services. Donations in Mr. William's memory may be made to 'SF Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund'.
Published by San Francisco Chronicle from Dec. 12 to Dec. 13, 2015.
To plant trees in memory, please visit the Sympathy Store.
To offer your sympathy during this difficult time, you can now have memorial trees planted in a National Forest in memory of your loved one.
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32 Entries
Valenda Newell
December 4, 2016
I knew Mr. Williams when I worked for Williams Sonoma years ago at the distribution center in Memphis. He was a wonderful man - fond memories of Chuck showing us how to gift wrap a package using a minimum amount of tape! I was fortunate to have met him and celebrate his 75th birthday on the riverboat. May he rest in peace.
Jane Rothwell
January 7, 2016
While I never had the pleasure of meeting Chuck Williams personally, I always heard wonderful things about him. I worked at Williams-Sonoma for about 8 years and deepened my love for the culinary arts while I was there and also did a lot do shopping while I was there! My pieces are of such good quality that haven't had to buy many more in the years to come, but I continue to pick up a few pieces and treats from Williams- Sonoma. A wise man once said "a good name is to be chosen rather than great wealth;To be respected is better than silver and gold" . Chuck Williams, thank you for the beautiful name and legacy.
Eunice D.
December 31, 2015
My condolences to the Williams family. What a blessing to have had Chuck around for so many years. He truly was one who could be considered "especially strong". (Psalms 90:10) May you look forward to the time when all our loved ones will be recovered from the power of the grave. (Hosea 13:14)
December 14, 2015
My deepest condolences. May God provide you with the strength and comfort you need as you cope with your loss. (Psalms 9:9 NWT)

~Angela Flores
Las Vegas, NV
December 11, 2015
I remember when our PBT group sung happy birthday to him when he turned 90yrs old...he smiled and thanked each of us.
It was my first time meeting him and I was in awe to meet the founder of our company

San Francisco
December 11, 2015
I managed a Pottery Barn in WDC for 10 years and had the pleasure of meeting Chuck a few dozen times. The work culture that he inspired cannot be duplicated. A wonderful visionary and life, may he rest in peace.
A. B.
December 11, 2015
How lucky were those of us who got to know Chuck. Losing someone is always sad - but I will always have a smile on my face when I think of Chuck. He was a lovely, gentle man with a generous spirit. He made a big difference in my life.
A Friend
December 9, 2015
sorry for your loss
December 9, 2015
I know he will truly be missed. May the memory of Chuck Williams live in your hearts and in God's book of life . . .
December 8, 2015
So sorry for your loss. What a good long life Chuck enjoyed. Many cannot say the same. He was one of those especially strong. Ps. 90:10
December 8, 2015
I admired the spirit of entrepreneur that Mr. Williams had in him. He truly made a name for himself and changed the way many view cuisine. I join others in expressing my sincere condolences to the family and to close friends for loosing their dear beloved one, Chuck Williams. May our Heavenly Father, the God of all comfort, grants them the inner peace he provides to cope and the strength to endure their loss.
December 8, 2015
My condolence for your loss.
December 8, 2015
Mr. Williams and my father have something in common; they both were born in 1915. My condolences to his family and friends for the loss of a cherished man who lived long and lived well. So impressed by his Williams-Sonoma Home Goods that I will seriously consider them as I update my home. How I look forward to meeting Mr. Williams and enjoying a lengthy conversation with him when we share eternity in the promised Paradise!
Brenda Carter
December 7, 2015
My thoughts and prayers are with you in your time of grief. May your memories bring you comfort.
December 7, 2015
I live in the house where he grew up in Jacksonville, Florida. He came by to visit his homestead. What a fine gentleman, telling us his stories of being in the kitchen with his grandmother.
Nancy O'Rourke
December 7, 2015
I was employed by Williams-Sonoma for nearly 7 years, I had the pleasure of meeting him when he visited the store I worked. He was a wonderful human being, he lived a very long productive life and is a credit to the culinary world. I was very sad to hear of his death. He will be missed. Good bye dear Chuck.
h. k.
December 7, 2015
I worked at the Williams-Sonoma store in King Of Prussia, PA for over 16 years. Although I never had the pleasure to meet Chuck, his influence could be felt in the store every day. RIP, Chuck.
David Booz
December 7, 2015
I remember watching you on TV using your various products. Wish those episodes would be brought back so I can enjoy them again.

Although I'm an atheist, I do believe when one passes, they can rest in peace and, certainly, Mr. Williams, you have earned your right to rest in peace.

My sincerest condolences to your friends and family.
Sandra Goodstone
December 7, 2015
Mr. Chuck's long and productive life is an inspiration to us all.
December 7, 2015
We long for the time when once again we will be reunited with our loved ones in Paradise. Luke 23:43
December 7, 2015
I am sorry to hear of Mr. Chuck Williams death. I hope that the love of family and friends will comfort and strengthen you in the days ahead.-Psalms 31:7 tells us that our God in Heaven is aware of our distress. Please accept my sincere condolences. Know that Prayers are being said in your behalf.
December 6, 2015
Dear Family: I am sorry for your loss. May the memories of happy time sustain you during this sad time.

December 6, 2015
Rest Chuck, until you hear at dawn,
the low, clear reveille of God.

Thank you for your service to this nation.
Harry Simpson
December 6, 2015
I would like to express my deepest sympathy for your loss of your dear love one May you celebrate a life well lived and speak often of the many memories of him and remember that God understands your grief because he cares for you so throw your anxieties on him read 1Peter 5:6+7
December 6, 2015
Rest in Peace
Scott Chamberland
December 6, 2015
What a long, wonderful life he lived. W-S brand has always represented quality and integrity, certainly qualities of Mr Williams himself.
Melissa Williams
December 6, 2015
I am truly sorry for your loss. Mr. Williams will be remembered for his strong work ethic and knack for providing quality housewares. May God also keep him in His book of remembrance. (Malachi 3:16)
December 6, 2015
We'll miss you !
Adrian Barnette
December 6, 2015
My condolences to family and friends. I never met Mr. Williams, but he remind me of Isaiah 65:22, "the days of my people will be like the days of a tree.". Mr. Williams live to see 100, and some trees live to be hundreds of years. Thanks to our Savior, Jesus Christ we have the hope of living forever. John 17:3
December 6, 2015
What a wonderful and long life Mr. William lived. If we follow God's word we all can live even longer. We can live everlasting or forever.
December 6, 2015
In God's care, rest in peace.
Dwayne Bickham,Sr.
December 6, 2015
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