Robert Dan “Crash” Williams passed away on November 15, 2022. He was born in Duluth, Minnesota, on January 14, 1929 to Dan and Mildred Williams. Growing up in St. Paul, Crash graduated from Murray High School in 1947 and pursued his undergraduate education at the University of Minnesota, receiving his degree in 1951. With the Korean War in full swing, Crash joined the Minnesota Air National Guard and graduated from flight school at Craig Air Force Base in December 1952.
Crash married his college sweetheart, Sonya “Bunny” Swan, the daughter of the publisher of the Minneapolis-Star and Tribune, on September 4, 1953. Together Crash and Sonya raised three daughters and one son in addition to their five-year-old daughter who died five days after heart surgery. They moved many times following Crash’s career managing radio and television stations in Minnesota, Iowa, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Washington state.
During his years in Albuquerque, Crash and his wife survived a near-fatal airplane crash resulting in his nickname. Looking back, Crash couldn’t help but see the hand of the Lord sparing their lives. The plane crash that resulted in his nickname was used by God to bring Crash to a point in which he gave his heart to Jesus at a family camp in New Mexico. Looking back, Crash would acknowledge it was the 15 years of his godly wife praying for him that resulted in his new birth.
In 1978 the Williams arrived in the Seattle area where Crash became sales manager for KIRO radio. It was during this time that he discovered a depth to his marriage he and Sonya had not known previously. It was a season of spiritual growth for Crash, in particular through the ministry of the Mercer Island Covenant Church.
In addition to his successful career in broadcasting and sales, flying remained a huge part of Crash’s life. He was a member of the Air National Guard for 27 years. Crash took great pride in having established the Cascade Warbird Squadron with which he flew well into his seventies. He could entertain for hours by relating experiences from the Oshkosh Air Show in Wisconsin and other flying adventures.
Crash was a generous contributor to causes he believed in, including his grandchildren’s education, the Paul Harris Foundation, the Salvation Army and the Free Wheelchair Mission. Crash was a committed member of the Mercer Island Rotary Club where his outspoken and winsome personality was celebrated by his fellow Rotarians. His participation as a board member for the Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center provided a tangible means of living out his faith beyond Sundays.
Crash loved to tell stories about aviation and his family. His pride in his adult children and grandchildren was evident. He was his gifted wife’s greatest fan. Crash never tired of telling stories of his father who was one of the original “leatherheads,” having played for the Duluth Eskimos football team.
When his Bunny taxied and took-off beyond the sunset early in 2022, a part of Crash’s heart flew west with her. Ten months later, his seat belt was buckled when the air traffic controller gave him permission to make one final flight on the trip of a lifetime.
Crash was preceded in death by a daughter and his wife. His is survived by his four adult children: Wendy, Aimee, Paula and Dan, and seven grandchildren.
A celebration of life and faith will be held at Encounter Church on Mercer Island on April 22nd at 2 pm.