Richard “Dick” Bruce Watson Sr., 94, of Cleveland, passed away on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019.
Dick was born on July 29, 1925, in his family home in Waycross, Ga. He grew up on a small family farm and enjoyed an adventurous childhood milking cows, riding mules, climbing pecan trees and swimming in Kettle Creek. As a teenager, he was the proud bat boy for the Waycross Bears.
Upon graduating from Wacona High School in 1942, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy just days after his 17th birthday. He was a Signalman, 2nd Class and served on the USS Iowa before transferring to a small wooden minesweeper, the YMS-305. His ship was one of the first ships to arrive at Utah Beach on D-Day, successfully and heroically clearing the way for the allied assault forces. He remained on the YMS-305 for six months after the Normandy invasion, with the dangerous task of clearing mines all along the coastline of France.
He was subsequently transferred to Pearl Harbor, where he attended submarine school, and was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy upon the signing of the Instrument of Surrender by Japan.
After the war, Dick attended the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in education and married his college sweetheart, Patricia Ann Walker, on the same day — June 10, 1948.
Dick and Pat taught school in Callahan and Winter Haven, Fla., and later settled in Germantown, where they raised their five children. Dick received his master's degree in education from Peabody College (now Vanderbilt University) in 1951. He went on to become president of Walker Machine Products, Inc. in Germantown, which later relocated to Collierville.
Dick was a life member of the International Association of Lions Club, holding every office at the local level and was elected District 12-L Governor in 1982.
He was a member of Germantown United Methodist Church, where he held numerous leadership roles and taught Sunday school for more than 20 years. He served on the Board of Alderman in Germantown for six years and was president of the Germantown Library Association. He was a member of the Germantown Civic Club, Oak Grove Hunt Club and a supporter of the Germantown Charity Horse Show. He served as secretary of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers and held many offices with the National Screw Machine Products Association, serving as president in 1983.
Dick and Pat, affectionally known as "Boom Pa" and "Pitty Pat," retired in Highlands, N.C., where they hosted “Camp Watson” each summer for their 11 grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews. Boom Pa shared his love for the outdoors with his campers, enthusiastically participating in each of his planned activities. He led hikes, camped, rafted, tubed, fished and had more energy and stamina than any of his little campers.
When he wasn’t entertaining his campers and other guests, he was an active member of Highlands United Methodist Church, the Hudson Library Committee Association, and the Bascom Center for Visual Arts and the Nantahala Hiking Club. He hiked the Appalachian Trail from Springer Mountain, Ga., to the northern Virginia border and led hikes locally every Saturday morning.
He was an amateur architect, a traveler, gardener, nature-lover, and enjoyed many crafts including woodworking and stained-glass art.
He annually attended the Naval Minewarfare Association convention and enjoyed lifelong camaraderie with fellow minesweepers and the crew of the YMS-305.
Dick and Pat later moved to Canton, N.C., where he was a member of Long’s Chapel United Methodist Church. He volunteered for Habitat for Humanity and delivered Meals on Wheels. Never slowing down, he won Gold and Silver Medals in race walking in the National Senior Games in Raleigh, N.C.
Dick and Pat’s final home would be in Cleveland, where he was a member of Broad Street United Methodist Church and continued his lifelong involvement with the Lions Club. He lovingly cared for Pat until she passed away after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease in 2014. They were happily married for 66 years.
Dick was recently honored as one of the few D-Day veterans who were able to attend the 75th D-Day Anniversary in Normandy, France, in June of 2019. This trip marked his first return to Normandy since WWII and gave him his first opportunity to stand on Utah Beach.
Dick was preceded in death by his wife, Patricia; his parents, Jesse Hall Watson Sr. and Berta Lucretia Watson (Tomlinson); and his four older brothers: J.H. Watson Jr., J. Tom Watson, C.A. “Gus” Watson and Ernest Watson.
He is survived by his five children: Annelle Watson Hines, Richard “Dickie” Bruce Watson Jr., Walker Hall Watson (Liz), Lucretia “Lou” Watson Horner (Sam), and Clayton “Clay” Wright Watson; his two younger sisters: Sarah Watson Rigdon and Mary Watson Goodrich; 11 grandchildren; 14 great-grandchildren (with one on the way); and numerous nieces and nephews.
The incredible life of Dick Watson will be celebrated at his childhood church, Hebardville United Methodist Church in Waycross at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019, and will be officiated by his grandson, Jesse Hall Watson III.
Dick will be laid to rest next to his wife in the Watson Family plot at Lott Cemetery in Waycross, Ga., with military honors concluding the service. The family will receive friends from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. prior to the service at the church.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Dick’s honor to the Cleveland Lions Club, PO Box 1521 Cleveland, TN 37364.
We invite you to send a message of condolence and view the Watson family guestbook at www.ralphbuckner.com.
Ralph Buckner Funeral Home and Crematory is in charge of the arrangements.
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