DateSat, Aug 19, 2017
I first became aware of Rosemary Williams on a late -summer afternoon more than four decades ago. Not as tall as the reputation she would someday build, the 9th grader was eyeing an apple just out of reach and requested the help of a classmate enroute to football practice. Clearly, Im not Nostradamus, or instead of blowing her off, I'd have plucked that apple. Hell, if I'd known the influence that gregarious four-eyed schoolgirl would someday wield over my career, I'd have commandeered a damn cherry-picker.
Thankfully, the driving force behind Mountaineer's dizzying 21st century ascention either forgot the slight, or didn't hold it against me, because like numerous others who've worked here, I now owe her a debt too big to repay. A debt that began accumulating the minute she took over as Director of Racing.
Rosemary's first move was to install a meritocracy. No longer could scheming egoists and machiavellian gossips advance themselves at the expense of those more qualified. Suddenly-and irrevocably- your worth was based on what you knew, not who you could ingratiate yourself with.
Rosemary thought big and aimed high with Mountaineer's racing program, and her enthusiasm, bolstered by an almost supernatural self-confidence, became infectuous. Under her dynamic leadership, our West Virginia Derby attained the national spotlight, and an overnight program long scoffed at and maligned became a pioneering example for burgeoning racinos as our signal beamed forth to showcase a brand of thoroughbred never seen here before.
And if you shared her commitment to this facility, or loved it, even a fraction as much as she did, you had an advocate in high places, a staunch defender of your place in the scheme of things. A boss AND protector who had your best interest at heart, and deftly intertwined that best interest with incentive to sweat and bleed for this 66 year -old house. Earning Rosemary's respect became the only honorable pathway to a raise or promotion.
But just as importantly, you had a friend. A friend keenly attuned to your strengths and weaknesses, one who would stretch your abilities to the jagged edge, but never expose your shortcomings. And nobody EVER walked the tenuous line between friendship and authority figure with the balance and wisdom of Rosemary Williams.
And now after an unparalleled term of service advancing from money-counter to sometimes incalculable power in the upper reaches of management, the perhaps most influential person in this place's history seeks permanent warmth from ocean breezes, the opportunity to savor a sunset, or even the challenge of fresh duties. But this can't be goodbye. No more than Ruth will ever depart Yankee Stadium, or Michael Jordan cease being a Bull. The fruit of her labors remains too tangible here, these very walls too imbued with her spirit. And we are all the richer for it. May her legacy live on.
May God bless you and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young.. (Bob Dylan)