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John Stephen Watson

Our Superman, John Stephen Watson, passed away expectedly this week at the age of 70 years young.


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As a teen, a long and lanky farmer of the clay and rock hills of Northeast Alabama, Quarterback for the Springville Tigers High School football team, a self-made Hot Rod mechanic scouring the junkyards for parts, making do with whatever he can find with little or no money. This fireball of a young man used to doing the rocking and rolling, himself gets rocked at the local skating rink when he meets a tall drink of a young woman, a softball player, country through and through, his life partner, wife of 53 years, Virella Watson. Impressed by a woman actually strong enough to hang on to the rodeo of dealing with his strong, sometimes brash and overbearing persona to be with the man she sees through all the madness and theatrics...the loving, dedicated, powerhouse who needed a strong woman to partner with and point all that energy in the right direction. 

Soon after they marry and have a son, Cary Craig Watson, a butterball of a baby with a serious appetite. With John working two and sometimes three jobs, together, they set out to change the usual script of young couples from their neck of the woods. One day in the mail, draft papers show up for the Army. Not wanting to be in the Army, John quickly goes to see the Air Force recruiter. Gotta wait, recruiter is at lunch. While waiting, the Navy recruiter starts talking to him...Well, John never gets to talk to the Air Force guy. Duty stations over the years include Orlando, FL, Millington, TN, Norfolk, VA, Jacksonville, FL, Key West, FL and Alameda, CA. 

In celebrating one of his first few promotions in Millington, his first daughter Stephanie, was born. She's a bit stubborn and a challenge for him, which he meets head first being just as stubborn. It works...sometimes. He knows quickly he has created his match and someday it would serve her well. 

Then things got moving...literally. Naval Tours include:

• Participation in the Vietnam War aboard the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga, CV-60, building bombs and supporting aircraft maintenance for more than 1500 sorties, including air-to-air engagement of enemy MiG-21 aircraft, close air support of ground operations, bombing runs over enemy troop concentrations and search and rescue missions

• Working in aircraft ground support, John is on several deployments aboard the aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea CV-43, including:

• a World Cruise to change ports from Alameda, CA to Norfolk, VA doing military meneuvers and training along the way

• a Western Pacific cruise with participation in hostage rescue mission attempts during the Iranian Hostage Crisis

• Aviation Intermediate Maintenance Department (AIMD), Naval Air Station (NAS) Memphis, TN and Key West, FL

• Helo Squadron Ground support, ComHelTacWing One, Norfolk, VA

• P-3 Squadron Ground support, VP-16/VP-30 as Chief, NAS Jax, Jacksonville, FL

• Squadron Ground Support Maintenance Division Senior Chief, NAS, Cecil Field, Jacksonville, FL

While there are many accomplishments in the Navy along the way, his top honors include:

• 3 letters of Commendation, 1 each from: 

- Rear Admiral T. F. Brown III, Commander Carrier Group 1, San Francisco

- Vice Admiral A. A. Less, Commander Naval Air Force, US Atlantic Fleet

- J. D. Taylor, Captain, USS Coral Sea

• Navy Commendation Medal, awarded by, Vice Admiral A. A. Less

• Navy Achievement Medal from Secretary of the Navy, James A. Webb, Jr.

• Aviation Warfare Specialist Wings from L. D. Presnell, Captain, Commander Helicopter Tac Wing One

• 2 Letters of Appreciation from G. P. Harper, Commanding Officer, VP-16 Squadron

While the promotion and all his unique experiences detailing the honor of being in the military is great, for him it is never about that. John's truest honor is that of being a husband and father and accomplishing making sure his Family never needs for anything, his children graduate High School and go on to become responsible adults, all while having some fun along the way. Mission accomplished.

In 1992, Malin, an exchange student from Sweden, flies into John's family life and is quickly claimed as his second daughter. She lives with the Family through her High School graduation and continues to bring smiles each time she calls or brings her husband and children to visit.

John retires in 1993 and quickly realizes only fishing and working around the house or sitting on his duff watching races to occupy his time doesn't work for him. Enter the trucking business and racing...He's on the road making good money and he's home for racing on the weekends at Jax Raceways and St. Augustine Speedway dirt tracks. Open wheel modified racing is occupying a lot of energy for several years and allows for quality time with Family, especially his son, teaching him the ins and outs of working on cars and building engines.

As interest in racing slows he turns his sights to more rest and relaxation. While still trucking cross country, John finds time to gamble, where legal to do so, and starts to enjoy going on cruises with Virella. What cruises? Well, in true form for John...about every destination that can be reached from a Florida cruise line at one point or another is a destination.

As John lives his entire life as either 100% in or not in at all, not much in between, he continues trucking until, well, he physically can't.

He lives his life full out, sliding sideways and backwards across the finish line. 

His death is preceded by:

• Lydia Ann Bass (Mother)

• William Lewis Watson (Father)

• and numerous Aunts and Uncles

He is survived by his:

• extraordinarily loving bride, Virella Watson

• son, Cary Craig Watson, Pam (wife) and children Ryan and Lauren

• daughter, Stephanie Spano, Eric (husband) and children Sidney, Kyla, and Avery

• daughter Malin Wieser, Andreas (husband) and children Kasper, Nils, and Ake

• adopted granddaughter Kalani Smith, and parents Elizabeth and Jeff

Donations...we only ask, in honor of who he was for people, before your head hits the pillow tonight you give of yourself to your loved ones... a kiss or hug, a conversation, a moment of time where you are with them and only them, not thinking about what should have been yesterday or what's to come tomorrow...only right here, right now, such that they are left with how important they are to you. 

Please post words of comfort at www.hollyhillfunerals.com