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Pastor's words: "I am so sorry'

Published Aug. 4, 1991|Updated Oct. 13, 2005

The Rev. Richard Hans looked out at the crowd _ at the men in uniform who had re-enacted Civil War battles with Don and Ricky Williams, at the uncomprehending but tearful faces of Kari Lynn Williams' playmates _ and he said the only words that seemed appropriate. "I am so sorry."

They were the same words he had used to comfort Karen Williams after she learned her husband and two children had drowned July 30.

Saturday he used the words to console the gathering of friends and family that packed Christ Lutheran Church to pay respects to a man, his stepson and daughter.

The trio died Tuesday when turbulent weather caught them wading in a lagoon at Fort De Soto Park. They apparently were trying to return to shore when they stepped off a ledge into deep water, a spokeswoman for the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said.

But Saturday, Hans did not want people to dwell on how the Williamses had died. He urged them to remember how they had lived.

Donald Duane Williams, 41, was described as a man dedicated to his family and his church. "Don often visited church members who were hospitalized at Edward White Hospital," Hans said. The older Williams was a registered nurse there.

Williams also was an avid Civil War re-enactor, and was commander of a Florida unit. Re-enactors from around the state attended the funeral in authentic Civil War uniforms. Many of them served as pallbearers.

Ricky Lee Ortwein Williams, 17, like his stepfather, was a re-enactor. He also was an "energetic teen-ager" who was beginning to plan for his future, Hans said.

Hans remembered the last time he saw Ricky. "He asked me, "In what course should I major in college if I want to be a pastor?' "

Kari Lynn Snowden Williams, 6, was remembered as a sweet child. Her small casket was flanked by those of her father and brother.

Many who attended the 10 a.m. funeral were forced to stand as the church at 3451 30th Ave. N, where Hans said each of the three was baptized, filled to capacity.

They were to be buried in a private service at Good Shepherd Memorial Cemetery in Ocala.

Divers recovered the bodies of the father and daughter shortly after they drowned Tuesday afternoon. Ricky's body was recovered Wednesday morning.

Acquaintances initially found it hard to believe Ricky, whom they knew to be fit and a good swimmer, had drowned. But authorities said a strong undertow might have been too strong for even a good swimmer.

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