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Known affectionately among online gaming cohorts by the nickname "Ogre," 40-year-old St. Paul lawyer Matthew Sean Williams was a big guy with a big laugh and a generous spirit who fell ill from the coronavirus and died a week later, his mother said.

At 6-foot-3 and more than 300 pounds, Jean Williams said her son's stature could have been imposing, but his personality was warm and approachable.

"Whenever we had big family gatherings, Matt could have a conversation about anything with anybody," she said.

During her son's memorial service, Jean Williams said she learned for the first time of the breadth of his friendships across the country.

"So many people said he was the first friend they made when they went to college or got a new job," his mother said.

One friend told the Williamses that conversations with Matt had literally been a lifesaver during a troubled time.

"He was not only a talker, but a listener," his mom said.

Williams enjoyed dressing up for Comic-Con and also playing games online, especially Dungeons & Dragons. He was the first of six children and is survived by three brothers, J.J. of White Bear Lake, John and Sam of West St. Paul, and two sisters, Andrea of Greenville, Texas, and Maggie of Eagan.

Jean Williams said her oldest son enjoyed being an uncle to J.J.'s two young children, Abby and Connor.

"He thought his job was to buy the biggest, noisiest, battery-operated toys for his niece and nephew," Jean Williams said with a chuckle.

Williams graduated from what was then Hamline University School of Law in 2014 and worked for Consilio, a global firm that does legal document review.

The family asked that memorials be directed to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund because Jean Williams said her Irish-German son was committed to social justice and "very much aware of all that needs to be done."

How he contracted COVID-19 is likely to remain a mystery, Jean Williams said. No friends or family have been ill, and her son had been working from home and not socializing in the weeks before he died.

When Williams became ill in July, he thought he had the flu, his mom said.

"It came on suddenly and he didn't realize what it was," she said. His parents found him after he had died in his apartment.

Services have been held.

Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747 Twitter: @rochelleolson