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Travelin' man not ready to quit

Jennifer Sprouse • Jul 4, 2012 at 11:00 PM

Traveling has been something Randolph “Randy” Williams has become very accustomed to, and he’ll be the first to tell you he has no immediate plans to stop exploring anytime soon.

Growing up, Williams, the son of a Methodist minister, said he and his family were always moving from church to church throughout Appalachia.

“We lived in, I think, 23 different places. We moved a lot,” he said.

Considering the Tri-Cities as his home base, Williams said he graduated from Sullivan Central High School in Kingsport and left the area to attend the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, where he received his degree in ornamental horticulture and landscape design.

“I really wanted to be an architect, but the program was a five- year program and so I chose the quicker program,” he said. “I’m a creative person and it’s a real hands-on kind of creativity.”

After graduation, Williams moved to Memphis where he lived for 36 years, owning his own landscape business for eight years, an art business called Once Upon a Time for 15 years, as well as working part-time with Federal Express. His part-time job soon turned into a full-time position as an international import/export agent, allotting Williams 25 years of travel to new and far-off places.

“Basically, I helped people get things out of the country and get them into the country with the least amount of hassle possible,” Williams said.

His creative background and personal interests were elevated upon seeing first-hand the ancient buildings and architecture of old European towns like Paris and Prague.

He said during one particular trip to Paris he remembers walking out on a friend’s balcony and feeling the urge to draw.

“The building across the street was so ornate and so beautiful. I just sat down and I just started drawing it,” Williams said. “Of course, I’m a Christian and my art is very much a part of my relationship with God and it was funny, it just almost felt like a voice telling me, ‘You can do this.’ ”

Williams now draws real and fanciful pieces of art, incorporating a lot of scenic views with water, trees and mountaintops.

His interests in art were continuously sparked by his travels, and Williams said he would always bring back books –– some architecture, gardening, faith, history, art and famous artists –– and slowly over the years his collection grew to 600 books.

After years of toting the books from move to move, Williams, now retired from FedEx after 26 years, said he is ready to part with his travel mementos and will be selling them at a rummage sale for Westminster Presbyterian Church, 2343 Knob Creek Road, on Friday from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m.-noon. The proceeds of the sale will go toward the church’s mission trip work it does throughout the year.

“I lived in Arizona last winter and I want to move to Arizona and I’ve decided to go ahead and just part with everything,” he said. “I thought that this would be a really great way to give the books so that they could help. I’ve enjoyed them all these years and now I can share them with other people and also benefit our missions teams.”

Planning to move to Phoenix for health reasons, Williams said he is excited to get out there and to discover the beauty the west has to offer.

“I love the desert colors,” he said. “I want to start doing water colors of the desert landscapes. I don’t know how good I will be at that, but it’s so appealing to me the way the sun changes the hues of the colors.”

Williams said he still uses his landscape design skills along with his art interests, and feels creatively inspired by all the arts.

“I’m interested in the culinary arts ... decorative arts, landscaping, city planning, anything that has to do with creating a really beautiful, comfortable space for people to live in,” he said. “The landscape design part of it, I enjoy that more than anything. I like taking properties and homes and blending then into the landscape. I like natural landscapes.”

Traveling has easily become another favorite pastime of Williams’ and he said experiencing the stillness of Paris on May Day and viewing the artwork in Venice would never have been possible without his job at FedEx.

“I guess growing up I never dreamed that I would get to do any of this, so that’s really a miracle. I always considered FedEx to be my benefactor because FedEx made it possible for me to do the art and travel,” Williams said.

Enjoying his retirement, he said after his move out west he plans to get involved with a church, look into mission work in Mexico, find a part-time job and travel around the U.S. to see some friends, as well as set out on his next European experience.

“I think Rome is the next big trip. It’s the one big city that I still haven’t made it to,” Williams said. “I also want to go to St. Petersburg, Russia, because they have some really fantastic architecture.”

The uncertainty and excitement of moving to Phoenix could prove to be another adventure for Williams to conquer, but he’s said he’s happy and content with the cards life has dealt him, thus far.

“My life has been very blessed in that I got to do just about everything I ever wanted to do,” he said.

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