Jack Watts, 89, passes Sunday


Embodied local history; lived boldly

by: SUSAN MATHENY - Jack WattsLongtime Madras resident, historian and businessman Jack Watts passed away May 5, at the age of 89.

Born in to a pioneering family, Watts was the son of Carl Watts, a local teacher and principal, and Nellie Watts, who served 29 years as the Jefferson County clerk. His grandparents James and Lillian Watts arrived in 1905 to homestead on Agency Plains, and Lillian later served 40 years as the superintendent of schools for the county.

After graduating as valedictorian in 1942, Watts served in the Marines during World War II. Back home, he loved the outdoors and was very athletic. He taught himself to rock climb by tackling Three Fingered Jack, a very difficult climb, just making it back down before nightfall.

His cousin Jerry Ramsey recalled, “I was interested in climbing and we paired off when I was a high school junior. We were both interested in alpine climbing and he was my mentor. Together we climbed Mount Jefferson, Mount Hood and the Three Sisters.”

“He was older, but when I was 18 he could outclimb and outhike me any day. He’d run ahead of me across a snowfield with his crampons on, stop and take his pulse and say `It’s 50,’” Ramsey laughed.

Watts married local teacher Marilyn Cook on June 27, 1954, and they and their three children, John, Susan and Alan, continued scaling mountains as a family.

At the age of 46, he began running and completed 10 marathons, including the Boston Marathon in 1978 with his son John.

In 1961, he became partners with Paul Rowan in a TV and electronic repair business, and later bought the Crestview Cable business, pioneering the cable industry in this area. Watts retired from Crestview in 1982.

In retirement, Watts spent countless hours driving patients to appointments in Bend and delivering Meals On Wheels. He was a longtime treasurer of the Jefferson County Historical Society, and was instrumental in getting it set up and bringing the historical society and Jefferson County Museum together, Ramsey noted.

In 2006, he was selected as the Jefferson County Pioneer Man of the Year, and last year, he and Marilyn were honored as the 2012 Grand Marshals of the Jefferson County Fair.

Watts was also known for his sense of humor. “He was a wonderful companion and had an odd, droll sense of humor. He could absolutely put you in stitches,” Ramsey said, relating two stories.

“He and Marilyn would go hiking and he was always losing track of time. One time, they were hiking out at night and their flashlight petered out. They came by some campers and the people called out asking if they were OK. `We’re visually impaired, but we’re OK,’ Jack yelled back as they hiked on,” leaving the campers bewildered.

Another time, Ramsey said, “Jack knew about electronics but wouldn’t have anything to do with computers. We were at historical society a meeting and he asked me, `Do you have a palm pilot? I do.’ Jack stuck out his palm and it was all covered with notes.”

“His was a friendship I really cherished. He was one of a kind,” Ramsey said.