"The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living"
Marcus Tullius Cicero
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Harran Jesse Williams

Harran Jesse Williams

Harran Jesse Williams was welcomed into the world by his parents Harran and Catherine Williams on February 3, 1981. He arrived, with the help of his midwife aunt, Rhoda who proudly delivered him in a Port-of-Spain, Trinidad & Tobago hospital. Jesse, as his relatives call him, grew up and spent his early grade school years in Arima, Trinidad. In 1989 he migrated to the U.S., living in Philadelphia for a year before moving to Delran, NJ in 1990. For several years Jesse had a summer home in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where his Uncle Donald and Aunt Sharon took him in as the fourth child and second son of their family. He made lasting friendships and learned formative lessons during those summer-long visits.

Teachers, school officials, and classmates all have the same things to say about Harran, as he was called in school and college. He was congenial, easy-going, authentic, talented, funny, and had the smile that lit up the room. Moving through the Delran school system he quickly made his mark in the music and athletic departments. Mr. Fred would assign all the other band members their instruments first because with whatever was left, he could count on Harran to become proficient in no time. He played piano, bass, tuba, and trumpet for a while, but percussion was his passion. It was no surprise he found himself in the All South Jersey Band playing timpani.

Harran was the Delran High Marching Band’s first African American drum major, holding this position for two consecutive years. Determined to give back to his community he became the percussion instructor for the Golden Regiment, who won state championships in 2016 and 2017, and were national champions in their group in 2016.  From 2008-2019, under Harran's rigorous tutelage, the percussion section won over 20 caption awards.  His proudest achievement was in 2016, when they made a clean sweep, winning Best Percussion at every show.  For his athletic achievements Delran High School inducted Harran into their Athletic Hall of Fame in November 2015, at a ceremony celebrating his athletic prowess and achievements.


Harran’s Track record remains unbeaten at Delran High for the 400 Intermediate Hurdles and 110 High Hurdles. He still holds the County record for the 400 intermediate hurdles which he set in 1999, the year he ran the 8th fastest time in the USA. These performances earned him an athletic scholarship at Rutgers University. At Rutgers he soon rose to the level of Track team captain, winning the 4X400 Penn Relay Championship in 2001, running the 5th fastest time in the world in 2002, and representing the school at NCAA Big Five conferences. While at Rutgers he was, for several years, an active member of the SCREAM theater athletes. These players travelled to high schools and colleges performing interactive skits to educate and raise awareness of sexual assault, domestic & dating violence, stalking, sexual harassment, and bullying. This activist work was both painful and rewarding for Harran.

Thanks to his mentor, David Fenton, Harran developed an affinity for computer programing, which turned into his profession. He was employed at mPower Trading Systems in Haverford, PA for several years, following which he took up employment in a classified position at ASRC Federal, developing and testing software for Lockheed Martin. Harran and his work were valued by his office colleagues. He was praised and awarded for being available, amenable, hard-working, and competent. Harran’s profession was writing code and developing software, but his passion was playing percussion and developing beats. He was highly skilled at the drum kit, of which he owned four, and counting. He will be missed by the many bands and musical groups he played with, including Mystery Machine, Platinum Groove, Philly Rock and Soul, and his Abundant Life Church band. Credit goes to Parris Bowens for his strong influence on Jesse, inspiring him to relentlessly refine his musical craft.

Jesse has been playing the drum kit in churches since he was five. His grandfather purchased his first real set for him when he was 2 ½ and had it shipped from the UK to Trinidad. The toy set that preceded the real set was played to death in a mere six weeks. As a child he would go everywhere with his drumsticks, even to bed. He played for church services at Bethel Pentecostal Tabernacle in Arima, Trinidad. He would occasionally play in the band at New Covenant Church of Philadelphia. Once in New Jersey, he often played the drums at Trinity Fellowship Church, later to become Abundant Life Fellowship.

Jesse’s faith has always been the bedrock of his life. He declared his faith in Jesus from an early age and was involved in Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, Youth Groups, and Crusaders, a church paramilitary program similar to the Boy Scouts. Always curious about the Bible and ever wanting to learn, in 2008 he enrolled in Eastern’s School of Christian Ministry, a division of Palmer Theological Seminary. It was a special family honor for him to graduate with a Diploma in Biblical Studies the same year his mother graduated from Palmer with her Master of Divinity degree – they shared the same graduation ceremony in 2010.

Jesse and Deja’s relationship began and flowered at Abundant Life Fellowship; he even proposed to her on one knee in the church’s parking lot. In March 2012 they became husband and wife. They hit the ground running in expanding their household; David was born in March 2013, with Jonathan and Marissa following three years later. Jesse was determined to be the best husband and father he could. Seeking counsel from older men, reading every book he could put his hands on, setting goals and making self-improvement lists. He re-defined his job hours and added multiple musical gigs to his schedule - all to ensure his family’s well-being. He performed in clubs, musicals, theaters, cover bands, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, weddings, and other celebrations, and you may have seen Harran on TV, playing drums in a Mummer’s band on New Year’s Day 2019! In all of this he worked hard to be present for his family, teaching his children to read and play the piano, leading them in nightly prayers and positive affirmations, and being involved in their education and daily lives. He worked just as hard at being a supportive, encouraging husband to Deja, learning to love her in the ways that mattered most to her. His family’s flourishing was his number one goal.

Harran Jesse Williams is survived by his devoted wife, Deja, son, David, and twins, Jonathan and Marissa. He also leaves to mourn a sister, Joanna, mother, Rev. Dr. Catherine Williams, his father, Harran Williams, and his parents-in-law, Duane and Karla Martin and their family. His beloved aunts, uncles, and cousins in Trinidad, England, Canada, and the U.S. all mourn his loss deeply. He has been treated like a son in several households: the Smiths, the Pauls, his nanny Sheila Lane, Patsie Lewis’ home, the Morrisons, the Grannums, Lawrences, and Fentons, the Belins, Holcombs, and the Ryans. These families all give thanks for the shining light Harran Jesse Williams has been in their lives, a light that will never go out.


Celebration of Life Service, Saturday, September 4, 2021, 10AM at the Abundant Life Fellowship, Edgewater Park, NJ Family and friends may view from 8AM until time of service. Interment: Lakeview Memorial Park, Cinnaminson, NJ

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