Zephyr Williams

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Passing on sad news for those who might remember Zephyr from when he danced with ECR (El Camino Reelers) in the 1990’s, along with his daughter Elana, then a little girl.
Begin forwarded message:

From: Surajit A Bose
Subject: Full Obituary: Zephyr S G Williams, 1964–2017
Date: October 26, 2017 at 12:54:57 AM PDT

Friends and family,

On the one month anniversary of Zephyr's death, here is the promised fuller obituary.

Zephyr Starwater Grayston Williams
(Gregory Donald Williams)
October 10, 1964 – September 26, 2017
Having struggled bravely with prostate cancer for over four years, Zephyr Williams died peacefully in his sleep at his home in East Palo Alto two weeks short of his 53rd birthday.

Zephyr was born in Hemet, California, and spent most of his life in the Bay Area. He attended St John Vianney School, Archbishop Mitty High School, and Evergreen Valley College, all in San Jose, as well as De Anza College in Cupertino. He began working at the Milpitas Library, one of the Santa Clara County Libraries, while still in high school. After more than 30 years as a county employee, he retired due to illness in May 2016. At the time of his retirement he was an administrative manager in the In-Home Supportive Services program, with some 25 employees in his chain of command.

Zephyr was the son and the nephew of Episcopal priests. This family background sparked his philosophical and personal interest in religious ritual. At various times in his life, he studied and participated in many other religious traditions, including Wicca, Ifá, and Hinduism. The spiritual quest, scholarly research, and critical inquiry that marked his immersion in, and ultimate departure from, High Church ritual also characterized his deep, respectful, but eventually skeptical engagement with pagan belief systems.

Zephyr was a member of Mensa, the society for high IQ individuals. From 1982 to 1991, he was co-coordinator of American Mensa's Pagan, Occult, and Witchcraft Special Interest Group. He became well known through his writings for the group's newsletter, Pagana. Many of his friends in the latter part of his life started out as readers of his columns who were moved to correspond with him. These articles were written under the byline Zephyr Starwater, which he went on to adopt as his legal name.

Zephyr's piercing intellect and habits of rigorous engagement served him well in his pursuit of music. A classically trained flautist, he played for the San Jose Symphony Youth Orchestra while in high school. He was also a trained chorister, and sang in religious as well as informal settings. His first love, however, was the harp. As a young adult, he learned to play various small and folk harps, with a preference for cross-strung instruments. The Boreas, a wire-strung cross harp of his design, is still manufactured and sold by Argent Fox Music.

The earliest conversation Zephyr had with his future husband, Surajit, was about music; their first date was to a concert of Indian classical music. Their life together was marked by trips to the symphony, the opera, chamber music recitals, harp festivals, and Indian music concerts. Until illness intervened, Zephyr and Surajit attended at least one, usually more, musical performances each month for several years. As a result of his deepening interest in raga music, Zephyr trained in both bansuri (Indian transverse bamboo flute) and voice. He regretfully accepted that the harp was unsuited to raga music, but to the very end maintained a hope that some day he would be able to play some old-fashioned Bollywood songs on that instrument.

Zephyr had a keen interest in languages. In addition to English, he spoke French, Hindi, and Elvish with reasonable fluency, and understood them better than he spoke. He could also get by in Spanish. His excellent ear gave him the gift of accents. In French, he could maintain a Québécois or Parisian accent as he desired, and native Hindi speakers often congratulated him on his lack of an American accent. Particularly close to his heart was American Sign Language. He sometimes served as sign language interpreter at religious ceremonies and other gatherings.

Zephyr is survived by:

  • His husband, Surajit A. Bose, East Palo Alto, CA
  • His parents, the Rev. Canon Douglas E. and Helen M. Williams, Vancouver, BC
  • His daughters Elana Voigt and her husband Grizz Ryan, Bremerton, WA
  • His daughter Kala Lee and her husband Adrian Otero, Boulder Creek, CA
  • His daughters' mother, Valerie Voigt, Palo Alto, CA
  • His sister Catherine Hall and her husband Tony, Greenwich, CT
  • His sister Melody Williams, Stockton, CA
  • His brother Ian Williams, Kirkland, WA
  • His niece Brittany Ridgeway, her husband Horatio, and their children Tristan and Milani, Sacramento, CA
  • His niece Haley Fowler, Stockton, CA.

In keeping with Zephyr's wishes, his remains were cremated without any formal viewing or religious rites. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in his memory to any of the following institutions:

  • The Elephant Sanctuary, Hohenwald, TN
  • Basant Bahar, San Jose, CA
  • The Billy DeFrank LGBT Community Center, San Jose, CA
  • Stanford University, earmarked for Stanford's Palliative Medicine Clinic, Palo Alto, CA

The family welcomes email or other correspondence sharing your memories and photographs of Zephyr.