MITCHELL, S.D. – Billy Beers and his siblings Wavelene and Bobby were brought to the Abbott House in 1945. Today Billy Beers is Bill Williams. Because of the significant impact Abbott House has had on his life, Bill Williams wanted to give something back to Abbott House. He commissioned Karen Bakke, a South Dakota artist, to create a painting of the Abbott House fire. Williams donated the original artwork to the Abbott House during the 2021 Ernie Peters Day celebration.
On December 18, 1945 fire destroyed the first Abbott House located at 508 East 5th St in Mitchell. This structure became a safe haven and a home to the three Beers siblings, so the fire was a very traumatic experience for them. Then, on January 20, 1946 Bill and his brother Bob were adopted by Everett and Aura Williams of Cresbard, South Dakota. His sister Wavelene, joined the Williams family later that year.
Williams and all of the Abbott House children safely escaped the 1945 fire, but it destroyed the building. They moved into a temporary location at 421 N Lawler known as the “old Scallin home.” Shortly before Christmas 1950, the Abbott House children were moved into a new “state of the art” center located at 1111 West University Ave., which is now part of Dakota Wesleyan University. Abbott House operated from that building until 1993 when the Agency acquired the Eugene Field Elementary School and remodeled it to serve its current needs.
“Like many Abbott House alums from that era, Bill’s story is one of perseverance, determination and success,” Eric Klooz, Abbott House executive director, said. “Through the years, the focus on the safety and the healing of traumatized children has remained constant at Abbott House. Bill’s story is truly empowering.”
Williams, who says he began his life “dirt poor”, graduated from Miller High School, served in the Merchant Marines, graduated from West Valley College and San Jose State University, became a pilot, married and settled in California for 25 years. He and his wife, Beverly returned to South Dakota in 1987 where they created a racing themed restaurant called Victory Lane in Sioux Falls. Today, they own Brown and Williams Properties, LLC and continue to live in retirement in Sioux Falls.
Bill Williams writes in his book, Cat Eyes on the Horizon, that he has wondered through the years what his life would be like if he was raised by his abusive parents. He says “My guess is sooner or later I would have been in jail looking out.”
For more information about Abbott House, please contact Eric Klooz or Virginia Wishard Lambert at (605) 996-2486.