Marilynn Hymon-Williams, of Grosse Pointe Woods, receives her bachelor’s degree May 1 from Southern New Hampshire University.

Marilynn Hymon-Williams, of Grosse Pointe Woods, receives her bachelor’s degree May 1 from Southern New Hampshire University.

Photo provided by Southern New Hampshire University

Through illness and loss, resident achieves lifelong goal with mother’s inspiration

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published May 12, 2022

 Yma Hymon-Grant — who always encouraged her daughter Hymon-Williams to finish her college degree — died before her Hymon-Williams’ graduation May 1. Hymon-Williams affixed a photo  of the two of them together to her cap.

Yma Hymon-Grant — who always encouraged her daughter Hymon-Williams to finish her college degree — died before her Hymon-Williams’ graduation May 1. Hymon-Williams affixed a photo of the two of them together to her cap.

Photo provided by Southern New Hampshire University


GROSSE POINTE WOODS — Mother’s Day this year was bittersweet for Marilynn Hymon-Williams.

The 52-year-old Grosse Pointe Woods mom finally earned her Bachelor of Science degree in health care administration with a quality and safety concentration just a week earlier, on May 1, from Southern New Hampshire University. But her biggest champion — her mother — wasn’t there to celebrate this milestone with her.

Her mother, Yma Hymon-Grant, died in May 2021, just a few months shy of her 69th birthday. She was one of the earliest long-haul COVID-19 patients in Michigan — she unknowingly came down with COVID in January 2020, before the first case was even diagnosed in the state — and spent six weeks on a ventilator after contracting COVID for the second time. This time, her weakened system couldn’t fight it off.

“I was excited to graduate, but I was so sad that she wasn’t there,” Hymon-Williams said. “She was my biggest cheerleader. She always said every generation should be better than the last.”

Her mother graduated from high school two years early, at 16, and got married young. By 18, she was a mother to Hymon-Williams and her twin sister, Myrtis Tucker, who now lives in Texas. Hymon-Williams and Tucker have a younger brother, as well: Bobby Williams Jr.

Hymon-Williams — whose father died in 2010 — said she watched her parents struggle with medical expenses as they got older. That was one of the reasons her mother wanted her children to complete college, so they could secure better futures for themselves.

“She taught us to get your degree,” Hymon-Williams said. “Never give up. Work hard — you can play later. And I’ve transitioned that (lesson) to my girls.”

Hymon-Williams and her husband, Darrin Williams Sr., have three daughters together: Brittany New, 28; Taylor Williams, 26; and Tiffany Williams, 23. Williams also has two children from a previous marriage — Darrin Jr., 34; and Shynita, 32 — and because those children have a total of three children of their own, ages 2 to 12, Hymon-Williams is now also a grandmother.

Hymon-Williams had five years of college under her belt, but no degree, by the time she got married and started a family. Life got in the way of her return to school. She and her husband operated a school bus company for 20 years, and Hymon-Williams has spent the last 28 years with Henry Ford Health System, where she’s now a pharmacy tech specialist.

A piece of advice from her mother that would prove critical to Hymon-Williams was the expression, “You can have one bad day, but you pick yourself up and keep moving.” It would prove to be instrumental when Hymon-Williams faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Hymon-Williams said her mother was “a very positive lady — always laughing, always smiling.” Her mother worked in security for Henry Ford Health System for 22 years.

“When I was walking down the halls of Henry Ford, I would hear my mother before I saw her,” Hymon-Williams said.

She said they had lunch together at work every day.

“She was someone I could tell my secrets to,” Hymon-Williams said. “She never lied to us. No question was a bad question. She kept the door open for all conversations.”

Hymon-Williams’ deep faith has helped sustain her through difficult times. Around 2015, she lost all her hair — including her eyebrows and eyelashes — and suffered from debilitating illness, although she had to keep working for financial reasons.

“I could barely walk, I had so much pain,” Hymon-Williams recalled.

A string of doctors were unable to determine what was wrong, so Hymon-Williams did her own research and discovered that she was suffering from mercury toxicity due to her dental fillings, a rare condition that nearly killed her. She said she had gone through the same symptoms, including complete hair loss, when she had braces put on at age 18, but when her braces were removed shortly before her wedding, the symptoms gradually disappeared and her hair grew back. Hymon-Williams found a dentist in Clarkston who was willing to treat her and remove her metal fillings — a process that has to be done with precision to protect the doctor and keep the patient from even greater mercury exposure. Hymon-Williams learned she’s allergic to heavy metals. After the fillings were taken out, she recovered.

“When I was sitting there (at home) and I was sick, I was thinking about all of the incompletes in my life,” Hymon-Williams said. “I said, if I can get out of this chair, I’m finishing school.”

She looked into online degree programs and decided to enroll in SNHU. For the last several years, she’s been balancing work, home and school. Hymon-Williams was heartbroken when she lost her mom last spring, but she didn’t quit college, because her mother’s words of encouragement kept playing in her mind.

“She just said, ‘Go, Marilynn, go! You got this, girl!” Hymon-Williams said.

Her husband, her two younger daughters and her 12-year-old granddaughter piled into the family vehicle and drove to New Hampshire for Hymon-Williams’ graduation. They were met there by Tucker. Hymon-Williams had a photo of herself and her mother affixed to her graduation cap, and she wore her father’s glasses while Tucker wore their mother’s glasses so that they could have a piece of their parents with them for this special moment.

Hymon-Williams’ daughters are thrilled about their mother’s achievement.

“Words can’t even explain how proud I am of my mom!” Tiffany Williams wrote on Facebook. “(I) watched her work so hard to reach her goal. Summa Cum Laude, at that. I know grandma would be so proud of you.”

Taylor Williams also expressed pride in her mom, writing on Facebook, “You did it.”

Brittany New, who lives in California, texted to let her know that, even though she was disappointed that she couldn’t be there to watch her mom get her degree in person, she was “so very proud” of her for accomplishing this goal after she set her mind to do it.

Hymon-Williams will mark another milestone in July, when she and her husband celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary.

Finally getting her bachelor’s degree isn’t the end of Hymon-Williams’ story, though — it’s just the end of a chapter. She’s currently working on a memoir, and she’ll start working on a master’s degree from SNHU — an MBA with a concentration in human resources — this September.

“The bachelor’s (degree) is Mom’s,” Hymon-Williams said. “The master’s is for me.”