Family and coaching were everything to Richard “Dick” Watson who died on Monday at the age of 74.
Watson spent 40-plus years as football, wrestling and track coach at Walled Lake Western where the football field is named the Dick Watson Field.
Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. on Friday, May 10, at St. Joseph Catholic Church in South Lyon. A celebration of life at his home at 58250 11 Mile Road in South Lyon will start at 2 p.m.
“My dad truly cared about two things in life, outside of watching Central Michigan and Michigan football, he cared about his three boys and he cared about everybody at Walled Lake Western, the amount of time he spent there — the amount of extra effort outside of coaching and teaching and after he stopped teaching and became the building athletic director,’’ his son Bryan said. “I can’t express how much the Walled Lake community meant to him, the outpouring of support coming back shows his efforts didn’t go unnoticed.’’
The love that Watson was shown in his final weeks was deeply appreciated by the family. Word spread about his deteriorating condition on social media and high school athletic sites.
“Many people were able to stop by as he was struggling to stay alive. A lot of former athletes stopped in and had unbelievable stories, it was so neat,’’ Bryan Watson said. “We kind of always knew but just to see the outpouring of support was unbelievable.’’
Watson, a Central Michigan graduate, started teaching in Walled Lake in 1966 and then started at Walled Lake Western when it opened in 1969.
“Eventually he became the head coach of the freshman football team. He was the head coach of the wrestling team and head coach of track and field probably for 20 years at least,’’ his son said.
Watson’s three sons — Bryan, Michael and Bobby — attended South Lyon and all three played college football.
“I went to South Lyon, but I grew up on the football field with my dad during two-a-days, I grew up at wrestling meets on Saturdays as well as spending Saturdays at a track and field event in whatever state,’’ Bryan Watson said. “We were Walled Lake Western fans before we knew what it was like to be a fan of anything else.’’
The only thing that could slow down Dick Watson — but not stop him — was his diagnosis of multiple sclerosis in the late 1990s.
“He battled that, still wouldn’t let it stop him from coaching or teaching. He was found all over the fields with a walker and an Amigo still coaching while battling such a horrible disease,’’ Bryan Watson said.
In fact his love of coaching might have driven him in his battle against MS.
“A lot of people who have that disease would’ve been bed-ridden a lot faster. He kept on pursuing because he wanted to still be a part of the kids’ lives,’’ Watson said.
He officially retired in 2009 from Walled Lake schools and stopped coaching “for about 10 minutes” and started assisting South Lyon and South Lyon East in both football, wrestling and track and field.
“I knew my dad knew a lot of people. It seems that everywhere we were across the country he’d run into someone who knew him as a student or an athlete,’’ Bryan Watson said. “The amount of support in the last week has been unbelievable with the outpouring of stories of people’s lives that were affected by him. Someone said he straightened him up in high school, got him to worrying about academics and now the guy is a doctor.’’
Bryan Watson said someone sent him a framed Billy Graham quote: “A coach will impact more young people in a year than the average person does in a lifetime.’’
“I couldn’t believe it to be any more true as of what I’ve seen over the last week,’’ Bryan Watson said.
Dick Watson is also survived by his brother Wes; the mother of his children and caretaker Theresa; and his four grandchildren Anabelle, Grace, Carter and Robert.
In lieu of flowers donations can be made to the U.S. Wrestling Foundation or the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.