NORTH LITTLE ROCK, AR (KAIT) – Humor seemed to overshadow the sadness at a funeral service Saturday for Gene Williams, the renowned television personality. His family said they wanted friends and family to leave the service laughing, not crying. They spoke fondly about his passion for family, country music and keeping people on their toes.
"Gene was the biggest practical joker," Katie Lynn said, laughing. "If you were on set, you never knew if part of your costume might be missing. He was always getting the guys and saying, hey, your pants are unzipped."
Williams died unexpectedly Wednesday, December 14. A crowd filled the pews at Roller-Owens Chapel in North Little Rock, many coming to honor a country music legend.
"He was so humble throughout (his career). He used to say he's just a poor boy from the country in Arkansas, and he was proud of it," his son Robert Gene Williams said.
Williams hosted the longest-running country music show on television. The Gene Williams Country Television Show began airing on KAIT in 1963. Lynn shared the screen with Williams as co-host for the past eight years.
"He could tell you the history of who wrote songs, who performed songs, what year, who they were managed by, what year the record came out," Lynn said. "I mean, he was just a walking trivia book about country music history."
Some of Williams' favorite songs punctuated the service, reminding those in attendance of the sound that he dedicated more than 50 years of his career.
"Gene was just an incredible asset to country music, and he will be incredibly missed by his fans and family and friends," Lynn added.
Williams is survived by his brother and sister, six children and 10 grandchildren. They all remember the daily phone calls and lectures they received, but the laughs they shared will live on longest in their hearts and memories.
"I got all ready to play, and he said, 'Pat, your pants are unzipped,'" Patrick O'Connor said, recalling a funny moment before his first performance on Williams' show."He got me. He was always pulling something on somebody."
Friends and family said one last good bye Saturday morning, but they ask fans to stay tuned.
"Keep watching," his son Glen Williams said. "He's still going to be on."
Williams actually taped four shows last week, and his family says the episodes will begin airing the weekend after Christmas.
Follow this link to read Williams' obituary.