Mourners: LGBT pioneer elevated Salt Lake restaurant scene

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Hundreds of family members, friends and colleagues gathered Tuesday at a concert hall to celebrate the life of John Williams, a restaurateur and LGBT pioneer in Salt Lake City who died in a house fire.

Mourners described the 72-year-old Williams as a generous man who took the city’s dining scene to a new level. They talked about his love of the symphony and his quiet, yet influential work for the LGBT community.

People who spoke at Abravanel Hall highlighted Williams’ energy and passion for life. They also detailed his many business accomplishments, including launching the popular Market Street Grill and other restaurants.

Williams’ estranged husband Craig Crawford, 47, has been arrested on suspicion of murder and arson, authorities said.

He remained in jail but has not been charged. It was unclear if Crawford has an attorney. Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill was not immediately available for comment.

The fire occurred less than three weeks after Williams filed for divorce from Crawford and sought a temporary restraining order that was rejected, court records show.

Many of the mourners who gave speeches during the funeral didn’t mention those circumstances and simply called his May 22 death unexpected. His long-time business partner Tom Guinney was the only one who indicated the circumstances were tragic.

“Somebody had to say it,” Guinney said after the service.

Guinney said Williams had been married to Crawford for about a decade. He described Crawford as a Canadian with a lot of energy, who started having problems after being prescribed opiates when he injured his leg.

Williams opened the New Yorker restaurant in 1978 in a renovated historical building, showcasing what would become the two signature talents of his career — running restaurants and renovating buildings, said John Becker, a spokesman for Williams’ company Gastronomy Inc.

Detectives say Crawford was in the house near the Utah State Capitol when the fire started. He was later seen walking back to the house but never called authorities to report the blaze, court documents show.

When firefighters arrived, they heard somebody inside crying for help. They found Williams and tried to revive him, but he died at the scene.

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