Friday morning, my Dad, Robert D. Watson (aka Bob, G GBob, Bobby to some of you) fell asleep for the last time- peacefully, out of pain, at home listening to his favorite music and holding our Mother's hand- just how he wanted.
After a long health battle culminating in the past six months with a combination of COPD, Congenital Heart Failure, Cancer, Septic COVID Pneumonia, we are all very grateful he is no longer in pain or struggle.
You see, nothing came easy to Dad. His silver spoon was learning from mistakes, hard knocks, and questionable decisions he later worked so hard to deter us (his darling children) from. Born in 1951, Dad's constant in terms of family was his mother Scharlotte and his siblings: Larry, Nancy, John, Teresa and Phillip. The fatherly examples in his younger years were many and poor of it. Quitting school in 9th grade (later got his GED and attended college), Dad got a job on the S.S. Admiral and lived in a tiny room on the top. His "life lessons" were many over the next decade until, as he tells it "My life was changed forever."
Dad would tell anyone who would listen that he couldn't live without Mom (aka Kim, GG). Over the last few months in and out of the hospital, he made sure to tell me that Mom actually saved his life in 1975, looked me straight in the eyes and made me swear to take care of her when she needed it. They married less than a year after meeting when he was a patient and she a nurse's aide at Memorial Hospital and next month they would have celebrated their 48th wedding anniversary.
Way before his (darling) children came into the picture, Dad began his adventure with the phone company. At that time it was Illinois Bell and he began as a Directory Assistance Operator, eventually working his way up to Area Manager of Downstate Illinois Construction and Force Load Analyst, Outstate Illinois. In the 36 years before he retired there were many titles in-between, however the co-workers, bosses and friends he made along the way in his career were what he held onto tightly. It was during these years he earned the nickname "Yoda" that he wore proudly. He retired on his birthday in 2012.
Alongside his phone career, Dad volunteered with his best friend (and phone company cohort) Jerry Green at the Ameritech Senior Open, served as Local Secretary of CWA 6600, served on the Greater St. Louis United Way Allocations Panel (Illinois Division), coached our little league teams, served on the PTA, and served as the Secretary of the New Baden Chamber of Commerce. After a brief stint volunteering at the Belleville ELKS Westhaven swim meets, Dad ended up serving as Chair of the Pool Committee, Chair of the Drug Awareness Committee, and Exalted Ruler of the Belleville ELKS Lodge for two years. Dad also volunteered alongside family at the Belleville Area Humane Society, Mission Thrift, and helped out at our store (My Vintage Addiction). He spent the past few years working as a delivery driver for O'Reilly Auto Parts.
In the blizzard of '82, he became a father (I said nothing came easy). I (Courtney) spent the first few years of my life setting the standard for the pure joy they were sure to expect from my soon-to-come siblings- first came R.W. (Robert, Rob) and a few more years later Kate (Katherine) came along to complete our family unit. I can only speak to my own family memories of my father, but the soundtrack of our childhood was the never-ending education of his collection of 45's and the music of his early years. Whether in the garage (likely injuring himself building a project one of us suggested "All you need is a piece of wood" to begin), in the car doing trivia on the year release, album title, and the song same of what was playing on KLOU, or dancing in the doorway between our kitchen and living room- music filled his soul.
We have always felt like the lucky ones as our parents were always there. Dad sat through hundreds of games, musicals, plays, band concerts, and 17 ten-hour long dance recitals. At the end, his face was full of pride every time. When I was in kindergarten, he rounded up a troop of phone company trucks and gave the school rides to the top of Washington School. He ate all of the gross candy that the Easter Bunny left. He expected our best effort, kindness and respect to others out of us. When we got hurt, he swooped us up as a literal super hero with a force I only understand now as a parent was him experiencing the terror of his child injured. We imagined him wearing a cape.
Dad carried on our childhood into his grandkids. I know my siblings and I hold him as the standard for fatherhood, and filling those shoes can be tough. Of course he had to raise the bar as G/GBob when he earned that crown in 2007 with the birth of the first of many: Addison. Through the next 16 years more were added to the Grandchild Team: Jack, Parker, Charlie Peach, Gunnar, Archer, Eli and Clyde. He worked tirelessly as he did for us to send them into fits of giggles, teach them the (probably) best jokes on the planet and show up just as he always has for his family. His pride in his grandchildren was incredible as even in the past week he would stop nurses passing in the hall to show them a funny video they made or photos of each and every one of them
During the last six months, Dad attended appointments donning shirts adorned with jokes and the smart alec remarks he loved to dish. He told jokes to everyone that entered his hospital room, even when in pain or fear. Dad tried to make everyone feel at ease even when he was far from it. As a kid, I remember him being the king of the dance floor and sweeping up the ladies whose husbands were busy at the bar to act as goofy as humanly possible. His impressions of Ed Grimley or James Brown were a constant. The human cartoon gene was a strong one in Dad as he earned every wrinkle after years of contorting his face to extort laughter from another.
We were told he was a disco dancer, he dreamed of DJing on the radio. Once he got an afro because my mom loved Luke's on General Hospital. He loved to tell us about the time he drove The Pointer Sisters to the airport. He taught us the value of a good Swiss Army Knife and we remember him sharpening pencils with it as the true way to do so. His impressions, his trivia-like memory, his work ethic. We remember eating popcorn on the couch and learning the importance of 1960s-1970s comedy, and all of the words to "Who Put the Bomp" along with the dance he would do as it played, wherever we were.
We know (and hope) you have many memories, stories, and (questionable) jokes to share. Over the next few days, our family would appreciate the space to process. In the meantime, please post them here so that Dad's family and friends can remember them along with you. At a later date, our family and his best friend Jerry Green are arranging a get-together to share these memories in-person but Dad did not want an official service and we are honoring his wishes.
A recent one to end with as Dad would do, the joke he told every single member of his many doctors' staff, the staff at St. Elizabeth's, and every visitor over the past six months:
"Do you know the last thing my Dad said before he kicked the bucket?"
"How far do you think I could kick that bucket?"
We love you, Dad, and will meet you in the radio waves.