Kazel Maxine Williams was born on March 21, 1961, to Horace and Eleanor (Scott) Collins, Jr. She graduated from Davenport Central High School in 1979. Williams entered into service with the United States Navy in February 1980. Williams would spend the next twelve years of her life serving her country as a sailor in the Navy. The majority of this time would be spent feeding the fleet as a cook.
Williams’ role in the Navy was to serve as one of the cooks responsible for feeding a ship with crew sizes of over one thousand sailors. Navy cooks routinely serve in kitchens for eighteen hours a day to prepare three meals. While this backbreaking pace and length of work would be physically and mentally exhausting for anyone, operating a kitchen at sea has unique challenges that accompany the experience. Former Navy cook Chad Shaner describes the experience of being a cook on a naval vessel:
Cooking in a kitchen that is constantly moving left and right the whole time is challenging. We worked way more hours than everybody else because we had to be there for three meals. Also, being on a ship, we would have drills that we were going into battle, and you would have to drop everything… When you’re out to sea, you’re working 15 hours every day, seven days a week, and you don’t know when they’re anchoring… The amount of work you have to do when you’re out at sea and in those conditions is just grueling. And never getting a day off for three months or really getting to see outside, because you’re in the kitchen.
While being a cook in the Navy is certainly an arduous position, it does have its benefits. For one, there is a camaraderie amongst the culinary crew that helps them to motivate each other through the long days. In addition to this, the sailors and marines who eat the culinary staff’s food have a special affection for those who prepare it. Being a Navy cook is a difficult and trying job indeed, but it is not one that goes unrecognized. Williams served as a cook for five and a half years before terminating her service with the Navy at the end of her enlistment period.
Following her Navy service, Williams returned to the Quad Cities, where she spent the rest of her life. Looking for a transition from rigorous work like that which she experienced in the Navy, Williams sought training to work with computers. To this end, she took classes at Scott Community College that helped her become a trained professional in the field of computer science. Williams had a number of hobbies, and in her free time she enjoyed cooking, sewing, shopping, hairstyling, drawing, and performing music. She was devout in her Christian faith. For the last twenty years of Williams’ life, she was also the caretaker of her niece and nephew. She tragically passed away at the age of 55 on August 16, 2016, in Rock Island, Illinois. Her service in the Navy leaves behind a legacy of hard work and dedication to the well-being of her fellow sailors and marines.