"He is, without a doubt, the hardest working person on board," Dredge Hurley Captain Adrian Pirani said. "Whether we have guests on board or when he volunteers to help other units, it's universally known he is doing all he can from the time he rises to when he finally lays down. He is a genuinely great person, always caring for others and putting them first. He promotes harmony, peace, and smiles at all times."
The man Pirani speaks of is Curtis Williams, also known by many as 'Lil Wolf'. Williams recently celebrated his retirement from the Memphis District after 33 years of federal service. Williams spent most of his career as Dredge Hurley's Shipkeeper, and according to his colleagues, he was one of the best to ever step foot on the vessel, or any vessel for that matter.
His work ethic is second to none, and it was especially evident in 2020 when the coronavirus first hit the United States.
Williams's one-time colleague Tim Tucker witnessed his work ethic firsthand, saying, "On the Hurley, he's the perfect example of an "essential" worker, quietly keeping the country going and safe from the (Corona) virus that shut down so much. His contributions to the Hurley, and the Burgess before it, are too many to list. If you took the time to sit with him and talk, there is no telling how much experience he could pass on."
"I just enjoy working with people and serving others – that's my favorite part of the job," Williams said. "I was raised to be a hard worker; my whole family is full of hard workers. My dad expected nothing less and held me accountable. My mother and father were my mentors."
Along with having strong parents, it was during his years on the river that Williams fully understood how fortunate he was and still is to have such a strong and supportive wife as well. He acknowledged it was her encouragement and taking care of the family and home that allowed him to work on the river as long as he did.
"Since we've been married, he's been on the river more than he's been with me; but I was okay with it because that's what he loved," his wife, Rosemary Williams said. "He also cares about his family and taking care of us the most, and I'm truly so proud of my husband."
As his wife said, family is everything to Williams. Family motivated him to work hard, and family is how he viewed many of his crewmates.
"I look at the Corps of Engineers as my family and I want to thank everyone I worked with on the Dredge Hurley," he said. "When you're gone working on the river as long as we are, the people you work with become family. I'm really gonna miss everyone."
The district will miss 'Lil Wolf' too, and one reason why may best be explained by renowned Poet and Author Maya Angelou.
"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel," Angelou once said. According to everyone who knows him, 'Lil Wolf' just had that vibe about him that people could never and will never forget, even after just one meeting.
"Curtis Williams, aka 'Lil Wolf', is one of the hardest working individuals I have ever had the pleasure of working with," M/V Grugett Captain Trey Lawrence said. "Wolf would put a smile on your face anytime you saw him. No matter how your day was going, when you would talk to Wolf, he could always brighten your day. I wish you the best in retirement, Wolf. Always know you have many friends out here that will miss you."
Congratulations, Curtis 'Lil Wolf' Williams! The district thanks you and your family for the 33 years of service dedicated to this district, division, and nation. And as Lawrence said, your district family will surely miss you.