Ross was the baby of the family, and we always thought he was awfully spoiled (which of course he was). He didn’t look like me at all, I thought, with his reddish curly hair and sly grin. He liked to be the center of attention (My dad always said he was a “ham”), and he usually got it. Danny resented the attention Ross got and picked on him mercilessly.
I remember when Ross was about four years old, and he had apparently picked up some language from one of the neighbors. At dinner one night, he said in a very polite voice to my mother, “Please pass the f***ing butter.” Mom’s jaw dropped, and the rest of us just burst out laughing. Another time when he was about seven, he and his friend from across the street brought a stack of Playboys home. Mom was mortified.
As I said, Danny hounded Ross for a long time, mostly because Ross was smaller by quite a bit. But when Ross was about thirteen, he suddenly grew into a tall and rather solidly built kid. Danny stopped bugging him. Somewhere along the line, Danny started calling him “Otis” because he thought it was funny. Ross was not bothered at all, and soon everyone was calling him Otis. Once my dad went to pick him up at a church dance, and when he asked for Ross Williams, no one knew who he was talking about. Finally, someone said, “Oh, you mean Otis.”
During his teenage years, Ross became quite a good surfer, and he and Danny surfed just about every weekend and every day during the summer. I think it was the surfing that made him so strong. He had massive shoulders.
By the time I got home from my mission, Ross was big and tall and strong. He met an African American girl at youth conference, and she persuaded him to start dressing and grooming himself as if he too were black. Danny called him the “pseudo-black.” What made me sad was that this girl treated him really badly and said terrible things to him, such as that she was embarrassed to be seen with him. He really withdrew during that time and became really quiet and unsure of himself. I used to pick him up from his job at Builders’ Emporium and we would talk for hours about life. I kept telling him that no one was worth the abuse he was taking from her. Finally he broke up with her, and soon he was back to his old, happy self. Later I read his journal from this time period, and it made me cry to think of how sad and hurt he was.
After graduation, he and Danny spent a week surfing in Mazatlan. Ross ended up surfing alone much of the time because Danny got stung by a Portuguese Man-O-War. He was pretty good about staying with him and taking care of him, but Danny insisted he go out and get in some waves.
That fall he headed off to BYU like most of us in our family had. The first day, he went to class and realized he’d forgotten a pencil, so he turned to the girl sitting next to him and asked if he could borrow one from her. They immediately hit it off, and soon they were inseparable. Just a couple of weeks into the semester, I was working one night at my low-paying job cleaning the Wilkinson Center floors when someone knocked on the window behind me at about one in the morning. It was Ross, and he wanted to introduce me to Becky, the girl he had met. He was much taller and bigger than she was, but they both seemed so happy together.
For my birthday, Danny and Ross rented a couple of movies to watch at our house. The only one I remember was “Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things.” At Christmas that year, we all gathered at my parents’ house in California and took a family photo. For some reason, Ross didn’t have his dress clothes with him, so he squeezed into one of my sweaters. (I have no idea how. He was about 6’2″ tall, and I’m six inches shorter than that. )
As I said, the last time I saw Ross we were swimming in the Richards Building at BYU. Both Danny and I commented on how huge he was, his shoulder muscles big and strong. We felt like dwarves standing next to him.
Ross was driving the day they were killed. His girlfriend took a picture of him behind the wheel, a big licorice pipe in his mouth. He looked really happy. I wish they had not done a viewing, as Ross did not really look like himself there in the casket. I much prefer thinking of him standing outside in the cold, his arm around his girlfriend, a big contented grin on his face.