Ozella Williams likes to work with her hands, which means that this is a busy time of year.
When the weather turns crisp and signals the holiday season, Williams starts working on creating a variety of arts and crafts.
Her first order of business is to complete 50 holiday wreaths, which she donates each year to Abyssinian Baptist Church in Newark, where she was baptized years ago.
“You just go to work. I love working with my hands,” Williams, 76, said.
Like any veteran crafter, Williams is strategic and thrifty with her materials. She can fashion a decorative basket from popsicle sticks. She’s figured out which dollar store items can be artfully repurposed into something festive. For her wreaths, which grace the doors around New Community Gardens Senior where Williams resides, wire coat hangers, plastic tablecloths and pine cones are invaluable items.
“I can do Halloween decorations, I can do it all,” she said. Everything, Williams noted, except for knitting. For that particular craft, she hasn’t got the patience.
She’s also got talent with baking and has earned a reputation in the building for whipping up a mean coconut cake for special events, according to Sister Lucy Modester, assistant care coordinator at Gardens Senior.
With her playful sense of humor, Williams often seems to be the life of the party, Modester said. “She’s very entertaining,” Modester added. “You’ll find her surrounded with people.”
Born in the small town of Lumpkin, Ga., Williams moved with her family to New Jersey at age three. Upon graduating from Central High, she attended evening classes at Essex County College for half a year before leaving for a job, and later to care for her ill mother.
Williams worked for four years as the nurse on the floor at what’s now called Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital in Morris Plains. For 18 years, Williams worked at an establishment in Bloomfield that manufactured cassette and record cases. Meanwhile, she raised her son, Daryl, as a single parent and eventually stopped working due to taking medical leave for a back injury, she said.
Williams recalls specific memories about each place that she’s lived in Newark. She moved into 265 Morris Ave. in 2001, the day before the September 11 terrorist attacks. “You move around until you hit the right spot,” she said.
When she’s not crafting, Williams said she enjoys watching sci-fi shows.