Long-time advocate for farms and farming on Whidbey Island and beyond, Dr. Christine Stella Faith Williams passed away at her home near Langley on November 26, 2021 after a 2.5 year battle with pancreatic cancer. Named in recognition of her birth date on December 25, 1941 in Denham, Buckinghamshire in England, Christine graduated from High Wycombe Grammar School and entered the degree program in the School of Veterinary Science at the University of Bristol in 1960 at the age of 18. She graduated with honors four years later, and briefly practiced in a small animal hospital in London before marrying Dr. Jeff Williams, whom she had met in the veterinary program at Bristol. She joined him at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA where he became a Fulbright Scholar in 1964. While at ‘U Penn’Christine completed a one-year internship in surgery, and then became Surgical Associate at Devon Animal Hospital, in Devon, PA for the next two years, providing almost all the surgical services on a daily basis. Taking up a position as Clinical Veterinarian in the animal care program at Wyeth Pharmaceutical Company in 1967 set her on a path to a specialty in the care of laboratory animals that extended throughout her long professional career.
The couple moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1968, and Christine became a faculty member in the College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Buenos Aires, specializing in the diseases and management of experimental animals. Returning to the USA in 1971 she completed a residency in this specialty at Michigan State University, in East Lansing, MI, and became Board Certified as a member of the American Association of Labratory Animal Medicine. She assumed the Directorship of the MSU Animal Resources Program and managed all aspects of labratory animal care on the 5000 acre campus of the university until her retirement in 1999 as Professor of Pathology. In that capacity she authored many scientific papers and a Handbook, Practical Guide to Labratory Animal Care published by Mosby in 1981, that is still in use by many of her colleagues in the field today.
Although both full-time professors at MSU, Chris and Jeff lived on a 40 acre farm in central Michigan for 27 years where they raised sheep, producing about 500 lambs per year. That experience led to her becoming an internationally recognized expert in sheep diseases, and she served as President of the American Association of Sheep and Goat Practicioners, travelling the world extensively as an educator and researcher in small ruminant production and management. Moving to Whidbey Island in 2001, they brought with them key breeding stock that form the basis of the current much smaller flock on their 20 acre property near Bayview. She maintained her interest in improving health and animal care in the developing world by serving pro bono as consultant to Heifer Project International for several decades.
On arrival Christine launched into an energetic study of the farming practices on the island, traveling its length and breadth over and over in becoming familiar with many members of the farming community here. Eventually she was able to pull together and constantly update a resourceful account of the activities and trends in all aspects of farm production and marketing, not only on Whidbey but also covering the nearby Pacific NW region. She developed and distributed to all-interested parties a lively, informational and entertaining e-mail newsletter, first as Grange Food News up until 2016j and from then on as Free Range News. It was always composed with exceptional care and accuracy, but also full of her characteristic writing flair and wit. Tirelessly churning out regular issues of her popular newsletter made her many new and loyal friends over the years; it has been sorely missed since the effects of her declining health set in, and she could no longer keep up the pace.
Before her illness Chris engaged fully in Whidbey Island life, becoming a ferocious advocate for public beach access, a volunteer for Waste-Wise, the Red Cross, the Island County Fair, the Whidbey Triathlon, and Meerkirk Gardens. She played a recurring character in the annual ‘Mystery Weekend’ in Langley, and was a staunch South Whidbey Tilth supporter. She regularly accomodated needy visitors for stays at her home, from ‘Djangofest’ band members to Tuvan Throat singers, and from soccer coaches to orchestra conductors, and loved to welcome guests from all over the world. Chris had a keen eye for the natural history of the flora and fauna of the island. She was an accomplished gardener and horticulturalist, glorying in the opportunities provided by the mild Island climate to grow many ornamental trees and flowers that beautify her home today.
Survived only by her sister Marguerite Scull nee Franks in England, and Jeff, her husband of 57 years, she will be sorely missed. The farms and farmers of Island County have lost a precious voice on behalf of healthy food production and practices that are so greatly needed at this time. Donations on her behalf should be directed to The Fistula Foundation (https://fistulafoundation.org/), an extraordinarily effective and worthy cause helping fistula-afflicted women in tropical countries that Chris and Jeff have enjoyed supporting in recent years.