Watts remembered for energy, warmth, love of local history
Lincolnville — When cancer took the life of Jackie Watts Sept. 27, 2013, the town lost the first curator of its history, as well as a creative, dynamic and loving citizen, said family and friends.
Born in Lincolnville in 1945, she was the daughter of Beatrice (Lermond) and Ivan Young. She lived much of her childhood in the Youngtown Corner Farmhouse, according to the obituary largely written by her. The building is now the Youngtown Inn.
Stacey Parra, Watts’ niece, said the house was also her family home when she was young. The youngest daughter of Watts’ oldest brother, Bernard Young, Parra spent a lot of time with her Watts cousins, because they were closer to her own age than her siblings. She recalled going to birthday parties Watts put on for her children, and other times she and other youngsters gathered at the Watts home to play games.
“There was never a closed door,” Parra said. “She treated me like one of her own kids,” including her in trips to the family camp and other activities.
Parra also remembered a family tradition begun by her aunt: Thanksgiving dinner at Tranquility Grange. Watts would invited “anyone in town who didn’t have a place to go,” often feeding a crowd of 80 to 90 people when Parra was a child. Nowadays, the family still gathers at the grange with community members invited, but the numbers are smaller, she said.
“She would do anything for anyone, and she was involved in everything,” Parra said of Watts. And she set an example for her family of concern for others.
“It was not about what you received, but about what you gave.”
Connie Parker, who worked with Watts as part of Lincolnville Historical Society, also knew her as a youngster. She said Watts’ parents owned the Sunset Cove swimming area.
“She had a wonderful personality. … She was one of these people that everyone loved, even as a child.”
Parker told how all the town’s children would go to Watts’ house on Halloween, and Watts would photograph them in costume. The historical society now has many of those photos, she said.
Deputy Fire Chief Mike Eugley remembers Watts from her days on Lincolnville Fire Department, when her husband Maurice was fire chief in the 1980s and ‘90s. While she didn’t go out to fires, Eugley said, Watts would run the radio when firefighters were called out, performing the functions of a dispatcher.
She also attended all the fire department meetings and helped to raise money for the department, he said. At first she put together the community calendar with residents’ birthdays, anniversaries and other special dates as a fundraiser for the fire department, Eugley said. Later, calendar sales supported Lincolnville Historical Society, which Watts helped start in 1975.
And she filled the busy role of a fire chief’s wife: “you’re always baking pies,” Eugley said.
Several of Watts’ colleagues from the historical society credited her as the driving force behind the organization’s founding. Barbara Hatch moved to town in the 1980s and became interested in joining the historical society.
“Every inquiry I made seemed to lead to Jackie,” she said.
Hatch found Watts’ four-volume history of the town a good introduction to Lincolnville. Watts and her cousin, local historian Isabel Morse Maresh, put together scrapbooks with photos, genealogies and other information about the town’s history, and kept adding volumes as she received information from people in town or far away. The final volume, said Diane O’Brien, was a reprint of a 1907 city directory, which included not only information about residents of Lincolnville, but also those who had moved away. The books are still available for purchase from the society.
Watts was not one to be content with past achievements, Hatch said, but always wanted to start new projects.
She remembered working on Lincolnville’s 2002 bicentennial celebration with Watts. For each of the 10 years prior to the celebration, she said, Watts commissioned a commemorative mug with an historic photograph to raise money for the event. The mugs did that and more.
“It really got us psyched for [the bicentennial],” said Hatch.
In recognition of her work on the event, Watts was made grand marshal of the bicentennial parade.
Watts’ devotion to the historical society was noted by several people, but Hatch summed it up well.
“Her family came first, but the historical society was a close second.”
Hatch also worked with Watts for a time at Maine Windjammer Cruises in Camden, owned by Ray and Ann Williamson. Watts was Ray Williamson’s personal assistant, took reservations for cruises, ordered food for them, kept track of the payroll and the myriad details of daily operations.
“Jackie essentially ran the company,” when Ray was away, Hatch said.
Ray and Ann Williamson confirmed Watts’ contribution to their business.
“She was a very smart lady. She multi-tasked like crazy,” said Ann.
Her husband added, “She basically kept it all together for me.”
Both said Watts was personable and made people feel comfortable. When customers who previously talked to her on the phone came in, they would ask to meet her.
Her interest in local history came to the fore at work, as well as in her leisure time. Ray recalled that she had researched the history of the three schooners — Grace Bailey, Mercantile and Mistress — owned by the Williamsons and of the company. Ray credited Watts with laying the groundwork for the book “Keeping the Tradition Alive,” which was published for Windjammer Cruises’ 75th anniversary. She kept track of records of the schooners, letters received from previous owners of the boats and other materials.
“She was great on organizing things,” he said.
And she brought the same warmth Parra remembered from her childhood to her work.
“She was just like family,” Ray said. “You could talk to her about anything.”
Busy as she was, Watts also took opportunities to promote others’ projects and causes.
Rev. Susan Stonestreet, pastor of United Christian Church, which Watts attended, recalled that in the last few years, just getting to church was hard for Watts. Still, she would be there in her wheelchair and during the community announcements would always remind the congregation about events going on to help others.
Stonestreet said Watts “loved to participate in any way she could,” including teaching Sunday School and helping with the annual Strawberry Festival.
“She was behind a lot of good things that happened,” said O’Brien. “She was a wonderful citizen of the town.”
O’Brien recalled that Watts set up teen clubs and dances when her children were in school, and even took on the Cub Scout pack when no one else volunteered to lead it.
Although cancer forced her to stay home much of the time last year, O’Brien said, Watts came to the Historical Society’s Move It! Day and helped pull the former schoolhouse across Route 52 to the site where it was to be renovated for use as the town’s library.
In her honor, the Historical Society will name the display sheds next to the new library the Jackie Young Watts Open Air Museum, with a dedication Saturday, Oct. 26, at 4 p.m.
O’Brien remembers Watts as "a good and loyal friend.”
Hatch also spoke of Watts’ kindness to her. She said Watts would take her to medical appointments when Hatch was unable to drive, and if Hatch went out in bad weather, she would get a call from Watts just to chat after she was home.
“It took me a long time to realize that was her way of making sure I was all right,” Hatch recalled.
Stonestreet also remarked on Watts’ tireless concern for others.
“She was always thinking of others, and helping them out.”
Stonestreet said Watts didn’t just want to help others, “she wanted others to have a richer life.” Her generosity ended up enriching her, too.
“She was one of the richest people I’ve ever known,” said Stonestreet.
Courier Publications reporter Sarah Reynolds can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at email@example.com.
Sarah E. Reynolds is a reporter for the Camden Herald.
Sarah E. Reynolds has been a reporter and writer for more than 20 years, winning awards from the Maine Press Association and other professional organizations. She loves to read, hike and play word games.
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