Mary Carol Williams’ love of nature and enthusiasm for life is evident when you see her around PEEC, always with a smile on her face. But it wasn’t until we sat down with her for this interview, that we learned where that stemmed from and all the amazing experiences she’s had (literally, swimming with the sharks!).
PEEC: You seem to really enjoy nature. How did you develop your love of the outdoors?
M.C.W.: When I was young, we lived on a lake in Virginia that had a lot of ducks, fish, birds and all those good things. I swam in the lake for years and didn’t know they had water moccasins in it, and I would paddle my canoe to visit my friend on the other end of the lake. Everyone played outside, so I’ve always been an outdoor person. We didn’t have TVs! As a consequence, I have been very active all my life in nature-related things. I was involved with Girl Scout troops and camps since I was very young. I continued as a Girl Scout leader after moving to Los Alamos.
PEEC: How do you enjoy the outdoors as an adult?
M.C.W.: My husband and I both loved to ski and scuba dive. I recall a time when we went diving in the Caribbean, and we went on a guided underwater adventure. I was enjoying all the different kinds of fish and then all of a sudden, I got rammed by a Caribbean reef shark. He knocked my gear off and left me on the bottom, circling over me. When I got up enough courage to move off the sea bottom, he followed me for the rest of the tour and never seriously hurt me.
PEEC: That sounds amazing. Where else have you been diving?
M.C.W.: I’ve been diving along US coasts, several spots in the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii and South America. It’s kind of a family affair. My husband and I were both rescue divers, and both of my kids are divers, too. My daughter’s spouse was in the Vietnamese Embassy when it was bombed and he is paralyzed from the waist down, so they have taken up helping people who are disabled to learn to scuba dive.
PEEC: For someone who loves the ocean and scuba diving so much, we’re curious, how did you end up in Los Alamos?
M.C.W.: My husband was doing polymer work at Dupont in Virginia. The professor he worked for when he was a post doc called one day and said LANL was looking for someone to work on polymers and graphite for nuclear reactors. Two days later my husband was in Los Alamos for an interview, and we moved here shortly thereafter. We’ve been here since 1972.
PEEC: What do you do to as a volunteer at PEEC?
M.C.W.: I have served several terms on the board of directors. I volunteer to help with mailings, open and close for programs, work as a docent, and I am also co-chair of the landscape committee for new nature center building.
PEEC: Tell us about the landscape plans! What’s your vision for the new nature center?
M.C.W.: I hope we’ll have a number of volunteers to donate plants or help plant them. I would love it if community members would make suggestions about what has worked well in their yards and what hasn’t. We’ll need plants that grow successfully with minimal water. With the recent drought conditions, we have to think about those things. We’re going to have to use plants that can survive the changing climate.
PEEC: Do you enjoy gardening at home?
M.C.W.: I have a large garden, and I do a lot of composting and xeriscaping. I like to use plants that attract birds, bees and butterflies, so I plant a lot of flowers. In the summer, I also have a vegetable garden and fruit trees. I love the golden leaf maple in my front yard. Well, I love it for 10 months out of the year – until I have to rake up the leaves!
PEEC: What would you say to someone who is considering volunteering at PEEC?
M.C.W.: I would be very encouraging that it’s not only worthwhile and a very collegial group, but you have an opportunity to learn so much about your community, the Pajarito Plateau, and our canyons, mesas, mountains and skies. It’s interesting and the volunteers, staff, and board work great together.
PEEC: What is your background?
M.C.W.: I worked as an Environmental Chemist at LANL; that was interesting. Through that job, I got a lot of experience with all the different facets of the Lab. I worked there for almost 40 years and retired in 2002.
PEEC: You mentioned to us that you miss the cardinals from back home. What other birds do you enjoy watching?
M.C.W.: Around here I especially love the chickadees, flickers and hummingbirds. The hummingbirds will often sit on my hand and drink out of it. My grandkids just love that.