William Daniel Alexander of Laurel died after a short illness. He’d been hospitalized with complications of end-stage dementia and pneumonia. Born in Baltimore to John Ira Alexander and Dorothy Nell McGraw on Aug. 17, 1941, William grew up on his grandparents’ (John and Mary Belle McGraw) farm in Baltimore County. He recalled fond memories of milking cows, and a simple life surrounded by three generations of his family, including his grandmother Mary Held, who was a flying grandmother and flew with Amelia Earhart. William’s artistic talents were nurtured by Ms. Held, an avid painter. 

After graduating from the Park School of Baltimore, William enlisted in the U.S. Air Force serving in Texas during the Vietnam War. Returning to Maryland, he attended Johns Hopkins University, Towson University, and Morgan State University receiving several degrees in teaching, beginning his teaching career at an elementary school near Morgan’s campus. In 1965, he married Mary Celeste Caldwell and later moved to Chestertown on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Together, they restored a house in the historic district and opened Port of Chester Antiques. 

After briefly serving as headmaster of the Tome School, William began a long career with the Kent County Public School system where he served as principal of Rock Hall Elementary School and later principal of H.H. Garnet Elementary School. It was at Garnet that he began a tradition of shaking hands and welcoming each student to school in the morning. Together with school and community leaders, he organized the first Christmas Tour of historic Chestertown benefiting programs for students with disabilities. Recently, he fondly recalled his time at Rock Hall and Garnet and especially remembered the caring work of teacher Sue Nickerson. 

In the early 1990s William embarked on a new chapter in his life. Leaving Chestertown, he moved to Washington, D.C., where he was principal of Candlewood Elementary School in Montgomery County, Maryland, before retiring. It was in Washington that he met Edward McWilliams, his loving partner of 31 years. He and Edward restored a row house on New Jersey Avenue in Northwest Washington before moving to Laurel in 1994. In Laurel, they restored a 19th century home and opened an antique shop in a carriage house on the property. William’s knowledge was in 18th and 19th century decorative arts. Active in many civic issues in Laurel, he created the town of Laurel Historic sign project – Preservation Laurel. The mission of the project was to promote the recognition of historic structures within the town and promote walking to see the historic and architectural features as well as the natural resources that make Laurel beautiful. He also planted and decorated flower pots at the entrance to town on Market Street for various holidays that he thought the children would enjoy. His passion for historic homes was evident in his work managing all aspects of the restoration of Studley House for the Laurel Historical Society. He and Edward took great pride in opening their gardens for community tours at special events. 

He was a member of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Laurel, where he volunteered to prepare the altar candles for Sunday worship and tended to the church garden. He loved to arrive early on Sunday mornings to sit quietly in the sanctuary and talk with fellow parishioners. In addition to McWilliams, he is survived by two sons Mark-David (Barbara) and John-Bruce, sister Karen (Roney) Duff, and brother Ronald (Eileen) Alexander. His brothers Charles Thomas, Gary L. and Robert and sister Jo Ann Tanner predeceased him. 

A service was held at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Laurel on Wednesday, Feb 15. Interment was in the Chester Bethel United Methodist Church Cemetery, Wilmington. Arrangements are in the care of the Hannigan, Short, Disharoon Funeral Home in Laurel.