ALTOONA, Iowa — For 93 year old Ted Williams, Thursday January 17, 2019 was a birthday worth remembering. He arrived to the Altoona Hy-Vee to over 40 friends and family members singing the tune of “Happy Birthday,” but it ended with them singing praises for his athletic achievements. “I had kind of forgotten about those days,” said Williams, a 1944 Knoxville High School alum.
Since 1910, the world’s greatest athletes have competed for a medal at the Drake Relays but Williams is one of the few that could not compete for one. “The war was going on at that time and they didn’t give medals,” he said. Williams competed in the Drake Relays for Knoxville High School in 1944 but the nation was under a metal ration because of World War II and certificates were given in place of medals. Williams placed second in the high school discus throw. Williams said, “They gave me a certificate on the basis that I could turn it in at the end of the emergency as far as the war goes and I could get the medal. I just never turned it in.”
Williams entered the war as a U.S. Marine just two months after competing in the Drake Relays. “I had trained for infantry and I ended up in a tank outfit,” said Williams said.
On his 93rd birthday, Drake University and Drake Relays officials brought the overdue honor to him at the Altoona Hy-Vee. “Congratulations that is a beautiful silver medal,” said Bob Clark as he handed Williams his medal. Blake Boldon, Director of the Drake Relays said, “The fact he held onto the original certificate for 75 years blew me away and speaks to the significance of this achievement in his life.” Williams new immediately where it would go in his home. “I’ll put it where people can see it,” he said.
Below freezing temps may not spark nostalgia for Williams who took second 75 years ago, but having the medal, much like the famous “Blue Oval,” has brought him full circle. “It didn’t mean as much to me as today, when I received the medal not realizing it would mean that much to me.”
After the war, Williams graduated from Simpson College in 1951 and was an educator in Elkhart and Harlan for over thirty years. He now lives in Altoona.