WILLCOX — In 1968 in a Florence courthouse, Gary Tison was sentenced to life in prison for killing a prison guard. He wouldn’t stay incarcerated. Ten years later, with the help of his three sons, he escaped, and before they could be captured, killed a family that included a baby, and a couple on their honeymoon.
This was not the first time Tison had been in prison. Nor was it the first time the Tison family had known jail time or prison sentences.
They were violent men, the sons of a violent man. There weren’t just sons in the family, however. There were sisters as well, and one sister, Lynda Williams, has a tale to tell. It is one of strength of will and faith.
“God is really real,” Williams said. “He will answer your prayers if you believe Him. I did believe Him all my life, thanks to my mother.”
Today Williams lives in Casa Grande, the town where she spent a good deal of her childhood, but on Saturday she will be at the Double S Steakhouse to sign your copy of “A Lost Childhood.” It’s the story of her life, and it is a page-turning, harrowing story. However, with the deep faith her mother gifted her, a strong desire for education and a drive to provide her children with a better life than the one she had, Williams has not just survived but thrived.
“Whatever else I was or was not in my life, I felt like I was a good mother,” she said. “We know in the mental health field about the cycle of abuse. I never wanted to transfer that.”
As she moved forward in life, she understood that with her family history she had to work harder.
“With everything I did, because of my brothers, my father, mainly my brothers, I had to do it 150%,” Williams said. “If I was anything less, it was because I was a Tison. ‘Look who she is; look where she came from.’” The entire town knew who the Tisons were and that family was far from nice.
Because Williams was born into a violent family whose men were convicted criminals, she learned quickly to keep to herself. If she did not do as she was told by her father or brothers, she received a beating. If she stood up for herself, she received a beating. If she tried to tell her mother about the abuse, her mother slapped her. She learned to do as she was told, to keep her words to herself and to avoid her father and brothers whenever possible.
Still, as a survivor, Williams is certain it was her faith that got her through. Many times strangers helped her. She calls them God’s angels.
It is her hope that others who feel they are in a hopeless situation could be helped by her story.
“One of my thoughts when I was writing the book is if someone, anyone, one person reads this book and knows there’s a way out of their situation, whatever it may be, then all the effort I put in to write it and publish it was worth everything I did,” she said.
There is more to Williams’ story than her childhood, but that would be giving away the end. Also, as a writer Williams is careful not to give graphic descriptions.
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