Main photo (from left) Councillor Jonathan Wiebe, Mayor Scott Aitchison, Dan Watson holding Simone Serra, Martha Watson, Rixon Watson, Kaitlyn Watson, Kelly Markle, Chris Watson, Councillor Jason Fitzgerald and Deputy Mayor Karin Terziano at the unveiling of the Winston Watson sports memorabilia display at the Canada Summit Centre. Winston and Martha’s third son, Geoff, a teacher in Toronto, wasn’t able to attend the ceremony.
Dedicated. Encouraging. Inspirational. Enthusiastic. A fine gentleman.
Winston Watson is a man fondly remembered, the affection not dulled one bit by the passage of time.
Today, his family and the Huntsville community gathered to honour him in one of the places he loved most for the contributions he made to one of his passions: hockey.
“These are among the most special events we get to do as a community and it’s a particular honour for me to be here with Winston’s family,” said Mayor Scott Aitchison at the unveiling of the Winston Watson sports memorabilia display at the Canada Summit Centre.
In attendance were Winston’s wife, Martha, son Dan and his daughter Simone Serra, and son Chris with his wife Kelly Markle and children Kaitlyn and Rixon Watson. Winston and Martha’s third son, Geoff, a teacher in Toronto, wasn’t able to attend. Winston would have approved, said Aitchison. “Martha and I, when we were walking in, she commented that Winston would not hold that against Geoff. Because he never missed a day of work in his life. She pointed out that even her babies were all born on weekends to make sure Winston didn’t miss a day of work.”
Through Aitchison, Geoff sent this message: “I think of dad’s focus on fair play and sportsmanship. I remember his promotion of female referees. I remember his passion for teaching young players the game, even when he was supposed to be refereeing impartially. And most of all I remember his enthusiasm.”
An educator in his career—Winston was most recently the principal at Almaguin Highlands Secondary School—his eagerness to teach spilled over into his role as a beloved minor hockey referee and referee director. Legions of young players will forever remember his fairness and his sense of humour. One Doppler reader commented on the announcement about the display that, “He once changed my tripping penalty into a roughing call….. as I went in the box he said, ‘It makes you look tougher on the game sheet.'”
Winston was honoured with the Ontario Minor Hockey Association (OMHA) Excellence in Development Award in 2014, which was established to recognize and honour an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to hockey development programming in minor hockey.
That commitment also led to an annual tournament in his name, one that started immediately following the dedication.
Councillor Jonathan Wiebe encouraged others to emulate Winston’s volunteer spirit. “In the spirit of Winston, I want to thank all of the volunteers that participate in this community. It’s what makes this community so great and what people take away when they visit…for games and tournaments like the one that’s about to start.”
As the display was unveiled, one of Winston’s favourite songs, Come’s a Time by Neil Young, played in the background.
Winston’s wife, Martha, said she was overwhelmed by the love displayed for Winston. “This is overwhelming, look at all the love here.”
She thanked the Huntsville Minor Hockey Association and Town of Huntsville staff for their part in making the display possible.
“Somebody said to me the other day, ‘Would Winston want all this?'” she added. “You know what, the answer’s no, he wouldn’t. What he gave to our community came from his heart and that’s what made him who he was.”
The display includes Winston’s OMHA award, a plaque detailing his contributions, his referee jersey, and his well-loved old skates. “They don’t have enough blade on them even to have them sharpened one more time,” said Martha. “They are held together with duct tape, epoxy, Shoe Goo, Gorilla tape, but he loved those old skates and I just couldn’t bring myself to get rid of them…it’s just so beautiful, thank you so much.”
Although Winston’s death in 2015 was sudden and unexpected, Martha expressed gratitude that it happened while he was doing what he loved.
“He even took his last breath in this building, upstairs at a Huntsville Minor Hockey Association meeting,” she said. “It must have been just awful for the people at the table, but I just am so thankful that he was in this place that he loved so, so much and I hope the people that were around that table know how grateful I am to them and how special it would have been for him.”
She encouraged the people who knew Winston to keep the stories going.
We love hearing stories about him…it really helps us to keep his spirit alive.Martha Watson
So when asked, Mayor Aitchison and Councillor Wiebe shared a couple of their favourite memories of Winston with Doppler.
Wiebe was chair of the 2010 Ontario 55+ Winter Games which were hosted by Huntsville. He recalls that Winston wanted to referee at the Games and there was discussion about whether he would qualify because he was older than the age permitted by provincial organizers. But local organizers said, ‘Do you know who Winston is?’ “Once people realized what kind of ref he was, no matter his age, he was up for it. That really to me spoke to how dedicated he was.”
Mayor Aitchison added that he has many good memories of Winston, having grown up with his sons, and that it was hard to pick just one. “Winston Watson was, I think, just part of our consciousness,” he said. “He was involved in everything. If I have to give you one memory, it would have to be related to minor hockey. They were frustrated about some scheduling conflict and they sent people to talk to me about it and weren’t getting action as quickly as they thought. So they sent their secret weapon, and it was Winston because they knew full well I couldn’t say no to Winston. He announced himself as such, that he was a secret weapon. I adored the man. He was the most present human being you could ever imagine, whatever he was doing. I know he liked me, but when he wanted to push for something he cared about he could be quite persuasive. I will always remember him as the most cheerful secret weapon of all time.”
The Winston Watson sports memorabilia display is available for viewing in the lower warming level of the Don Lough Arena any time the Canada Summit Centre is open.
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