Longtime Pasadena Educator Koko Williams Remembered

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By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS, Rafu Staff Writer

PASADENA — For nearly 50 years, few brought such infectious energy and unflinching commitment to students in Pasadena schools.

Koko Williams (Photo courtesy of PUSD)

Longtime teacher and counselor Shigeko “Koko” Williams passed away last week at age 76, according to her family and the Pasadena Unified School District.

An online memorial service was held, due to the pandemic, while tributes abounded on social media for the educator who joined the PUSD in 1973.

Williams’ son, David, asked that donations be made to the Sierra Club in his mother’s honor.

“It’s hard to say goodbye to the person who loved you first and taught you how to love life,” David Williams said in a statement. “Your love of the Sierras, hiking, fishing, pie, pets, Halloween, Christmas with the grandkids, turkey/broccoli casserole, Federico’s butter rolls, Haagen Dazs ice cream, Disney, decorations, antiquing, the flower market, one-armed bandits, spur of the moment road trips, Coos-Bay, clam digging, wild berry picking, fossil digging, crabbing, cooking portions too large for any event, singing along with abandon, and being hands down the most annoyingly insane (in a good way) person in the room were all your hallmarks.

“The way you could connect with people and do whatever it took to help a friend, colleague, and the student will live on forever in all the people you touched,” he added.

“A beautiful, brilliant woman,” wrote Muir High School alum Kimberly Ashley-Robinson. “What a treasure to all of us Mustangs.”

Williams also worked at Blair High School and most recently, the CIS Academy.

Another former student recalled Williams’ love for the California wilderness.

“She was such a lovely person who radiated kindness,” wrote Katy Kimball Windsor. “I used to run into her in the Eastern Sierra, where she spent summers.”

Rob Sarlo echoed a common sentiment, an expression of gratitude for the late educator’s guidance.

“Koko was more than just a counselor, she was a believer,” Sarlo wrote. “At that point in my young life I had had many obstacles and family situations that would have led most people to head straight down the wrong paths. But Koko was literally the first adult in my life at that time that told me she believed in me.”

Norah Switzer Small said simply, “Koko was magic.”

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