First Posted: 7/19/2013
John Watson came home to his beloved Pittston.
Nearly 300 friends and family members came to celebrate the life of former Sunday Dispatch editor and publisher John “Chick” Watson at a memorial service Friday morning at St. John the Evangelist Church.
Watston died June 13 in Ballard, Wash., just outside of Seattle. He was 57.
An urn with Watson’s ashes was on a small table in front of the altar next to a photo of him smiling with a golf course as a backdrop. Golfing, as many know, was one of Watson’s passions. The photo was taken at his request by daughter Juli.
Watson’s friend and former employee, Michael Cotter of Wyoming, gave a moving eulogy.
“I’d like to tell you a few things about this son, father, grandfather, husband, brother, nephew and friend, about his kindness and gentleness, how he used the Dispatch to help people, how much he cared about his community.”
Cotter spoke of how deeply Watson loved his family, including his daughters, Pamela and Juli, their mother, Bonnie, his grandchildren and his brother, Bill, known to many as “Cowboy”.
“Cowboy was John’s partner and buddy in life,” Cotter said. “That’s just a fact.”
Watson, who was living in Seattle for the past several years, retired in 1999 from the Sunday Dispatch, which was founded by his grandfather.
Known to friends as “Chick,” Watson grew up in and around the newspaper.
He helped orchestrate the sale of the paper to the parent company of the Times Leader in 1990 and remained with the company for nine years after that. Watson had written a weekly local political column and golf notebook for the Times Leader in the mid 1990s, and a national political column for much of 2012. He took on local and national political heavyweights.
Cotter said everyone who worked for the Watsons became family.
“It was a tradition,” Cotter said. “He followed his grandfather and father to be the third generation editor and publisher of the Sunday Dispatch. But John wanted to leave his own mark.”
“Over the years, John worked on his vision for the paper,” Cotter said. “John took the lessons of his grandfather, and his father Pidge, men he deeply admired, and advanced them into a new century. Early on he was guided and learned much from Eddie Ackerman, Kenny Feeney and Dick Cosgrove. They were tried and true Dispatch people.”
Ultimately, though, Cosgrove said Watson started to hire new people and mold and shape them into his kind of journalists.
They were on “John’s team,” Cotter said.
“The staff followed John’s vision in pursuit of the truth,” he said. “He took on politicians, governors, even his favorites, congressmen. He loved a fight and he was always fists up.”
Cotter said Watson was a lover of national issues and never missed a State of the Union address by every president since Nixon. And that’s all he’d talk about for days after.
“Seriously, people avoided John for a week,” Cotter joked. “His own family would give him the wrong time for dinner.”
But the written word was his forte.
“…(When) John Watson was at his best, no one was more eloquent,” Cotter said. “He was a natural writer who spoke straight to the heart. He had an instinctive grasp of the right word, the proper phrasing.”
The Rev. Peter Tomczak read the gospel of Matthew that included the beatitudes, a set of teachings by Jesus. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
Tomczak, in his homily, called Watson a dreamer.
“That’s the man we celebrate today, a man who wanted to make a difference.”
Luzerne County Senior Judge Joseph Augello and Waton’s “adopted” son Halleluyah Walcott gave scripture readings. Gifts were presented by Watson’s nephews, William and John Paul Watson. Prayers of the Faithful were presented by friend Lori Nocito and cantor and organist was Ann Manganiello.
Watson’s son-in-law and friend, Ryan Walsh, spoke of Watson’s love.
“He had love for family, a love for friends and a love for strangers,” Walsh said. “He treated everyone with respect and with dignity.”
Throughout his life, Waston never avoided the tough issues, Cotter said.
“John saw the world as upside down, and he strived to put it right side up. That will be his legacy.”