Curtis Tate Published

Architect Who Worked With Woody Williams: 'He Had It In His Own Mind'

Kinnard Cemetery Shelter.jpg

Michael Mills can’t forget the day he met Woody Williams.

The 97-year-old Medal of Honor recipient drove himself to the Kinnard National Cemetery in Dunbar. He gave Mills a firm handshake. They walked the grounds together and talked about what Williams wanted to do.

Williams, who died on June 29 in Huntington, wanted to build a place in honor of veterans and their families. A place where they can gather and celebrate, protected from the elements.

Mills, the principal manager of the Mills Group, said Williams had a clear idea of what the project should look like. Williams produced a sketch Mills used as the basis of the architectural drawings.

“And he had such energy and vigor in his vision,” Mills said. “He knew exactly what this architecture could serve and had a basic concept of the shape and formality of the spatial arrangements. He had it in his own mind.”

Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from World War II, became known for building more than 100 memorials for Gold Star Families – those who lost a loved one in service to the country.

In his final days, Williams wanted to make sure the shelter was built. U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin’s state director, a veteran herself, originally asked Mills and Lance Muscara, Senior Project Manager, to work with Williams on the project.

“Mara Boggs in Senator Manchin’s office kind of connected the dots with us,” Mills said. “She’s a personal friend of Lance and mine, and said she has this amazing friend that has a vision, and said would we help conceptualize the vision? And once we knew who the friend was, well, no doubt, we would be honored to help.”

Mills added that Williams didn’t want the project to be about his legacy. Instead, he wanted it for the veterans and their families.