In Memory

Callie Williams

Callie Williams

A school in Nicaragua is being named for Callie Williams, a fitting memorial to the educator who worked there during that country’s war-torn years.

Williams, known in Taos as a community organizer, died Jan. 8 at age 57 after a long battle with brain cancer. She was surrounded by friends, family and Loretta Ortiz y Pino, her life-partner of 20 years.

Ortiz y Pino said Williams was a brilliant woman who loved educating others, whether it was working with campesinos in Nicaragua or Spanish-speaking women who migrated to Taos.

“She knew how to pull the best out of people,” she said.

Williams, who was born in Southern California, attended the International School in Switzerland before getting a bachelor’s degree in communications at Stanford University, where she found inspiration in the peace movement.

“I learned an incredible amount about political issues and the general state of injustice in the world that have informed many of the forks in the road I have taken since then,” Williams once wrote. “Whenever I have come to one of those forks, it has been my heart, my intuition and my political experiences that have influenced the road I have chosen.”

In 1984, Williams moved to Nicaragua, then at war. Fluent in Spanish, she was director of  NICA Language School, working in rural areas with the campesinos teaching health education.

Williams and Ortiz y Pino met in Nicaragua. Williams came to Taos on a visit in 1991 and felt she had found her home.

After receiving her master’s in education from the University of New Mexico, she worked locally as a community organizer and teacher. She was the director of the Maternal Child Health/Community Wellness Council.

She co-founded Mujeres en Progresso, a program for women immigrants. Ortiz y Pino said so many women credited Williams for enabling them to start a new life in Taos.

She also co-founded Sustainable Health Innovations, which trained physicians and health-care providers.

Williams was the facilitator for the Taos Council of Neighborhood Associations.

Ortiz y Pino said Williams loved outdoor recreation such as skiing, hiking, camping and canoeing. The two climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in 2005.

“Nature was always her true home, where she loved to lie on her back, watching the clouds move while listening to the birds,” Ortiz y Pino wrote in a memorial statement. She also kept an impressive garden at their home, including growing beans from Nicaragua. The school named for her in Nicaragua will teach organic farming.

Ortiz y Pino said Williams sought a comtemplative life in Taos, where she converted to Buddhism, attending sanghas and retreats.

Williams is survived by her mother, Gerry Williams of Carlsbad, Calif., siblings Muffy Churches, Lock Williams and Polly Williams, plus nieces and nephews. A memorial service will be held this spring.

In lieu of flowers, her family requests donations be sent in her name to Community Against Violence at P.O. Box 169, Taos, NM 87571 or