Neighbors return the favor and lend a handIf an animal is in need of rescue, Debbie Williams is the go-to gal in the Maple area. Over the past 20 years, she has taken in many homeless dogs, horses, calves, cats and more.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
If an animal is in need of rescue, Debbie Williams is the go-to gal in the Maple area. Over the past 20 years, she has taken in many homeless dogs, horses, calves, cats and more.
“Debbie takes them home and saves them all,” said Kristy Pearson of Cloverland.
“And she took care of them like they were her own,” said Jamie Meaghar, a veterinarian from South Range.
The Maple woman is there for neighbors, as well. When Meaghar’s barn burned down, Williams was quick to lend a hand. She and her brother showed up at 7 a.m. the day after the fire asking how they could help, the veterinarian said.
When her friends showed their horses at the fair or other events, they could count on seeing Williams in the stands.
“She’s always there to cheer everyone on,” said Williams’ neighbor, Jamie Johnson.
Described by those who know her as a very private person, Williams has battled colon cancer for the past six years. Through surgeries and chemotherapy, the Maple woman has continued to make her living farming — milking her own cows while managing and milking dairy cows for other Maple area farmers.
“She just has that will to keep going,” Johnson said.
Saturday, friends will gather to give back to the quiet farmer with a heart for animals.
“She’s always been there to help everybody else,” Meaghar said. “Now it’s time to help her.”
Williams is a selfless person with a heart of gold, Pearson said.
“She’s just a sweetheart of a lady,” Johnson said. “She really deserves it.”
A spaghetti dinner and silent auction run 3-7 p.m. Saturday at Rapids Riverside. Tickets for the dinner are $7 for adults, and $4 for children age 10 and younger.
Williams, 48, grew up in Maple. She started milking cows at 14, hoping to raise enough money for a car. She’s been milking ever since.
“I enjoy the animals,” Williams said. “Sometimes they’re easier to work with than people.”
Her hobbies include horseback riding, snowshoeing and caring for her animals — six horses, four outside dogs and three Yorkshire Terriers at the moment. Six years ago after a trail riding trip to South Dakota with friends, Williams found her side was sore. Doctors originally thought it was appendicitis, but surgery to remove the appendix didn’t stop the pain. More tests were performed and she was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer.
To date, Williams has had five major surgeries, five complete rounds of chemotherapy, an eight-week session of radiation, and a 1½-month stay at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
“I’m one of the lucky ones,” Williams said. “In all this time it hasn’t really spread … in the long run you’ve gotta look at it that way.”
She is waiting for test results to see if she is finally cancer free.
“My friends keep saying ‘think positive,’” Williams said, but she won’t get excited until she actually hears the cancer is gone.
“It’s been an interesting six years,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot about health issues, met a lot of great people through chemo.”
Cancer has taught her not to let the little things get her down and to forgive others.
“You learn to enjoy life, take each day for what it is,” Williams said.
As a farmer, Williams had private insurance with high deductibles. Recently, she reached her lifetime benefit maximum and is now on state insurance. But she still has a stack of medical bills that need to be paid.
“It’s tight,” Williams said. “It’s quite a struggle right now.”
Friends have been trying to hold a benefit for the Maple woman for years. She kept saying no.
“The way I was raised, you take care of yourself,” Williams said.
Saturday’s dinner is a way for friends and neighbors to show they care.
“I don’t think she realizes how many people are thinking about her, praying for her,” Meaghar said.
Silent auction items include a woodcarving from Grizz Works, tractor transmission fluid from Lulich Implements and a 4-year-old Appaloosa from TePoel Cattle Company.
“I told (Debbie) she couldn’t buy it,” Johnson said.
“She will be banned from the table,” Pearson said.
In addition, a drawing will be held for a 32-inch flat screen TV/DVD combo donated by Dan’s Feed Bin.
Those who can’t attend the dinner but want to help can donate to the “Debbie Williams” benefit account at any branch of the National Bank of Commerce.