John "Meredith" Watts
December 10, 1915 ~ January 09, 2013
January 14, 2013 11:00 A.M. - 2:00 P.M.
J. Meredith Watts, 97, passed away January 9, 2013, culminating a long and varied life as a soldier, a lawyer, a math professor, and a wonderful parent and grandparent.
In late fall 1915, Frederick Villum Watts, concerned about the health of his pregnant wife Sara (Sadie) Tregloan Watts, moved them from their homestead in central Montana to Sioux City, Iowa, where she could deliver her baby with a hospital nearby. On December 10, 1915, Sadie gave birth through Caesarian section to Meredith Watts. This initial ordeal created a lasting bond between mother and son.
Growing up in Melstone, Montana, Meredith learned from his mother Sadie the importance of loving others, of accepting and respecting them regardless of their race, their wealth, or religion. From his father, Meredith learned to love the law, its intellectual rigor and its historical foundations. From playing drums in the family dance combo with his parents, his brother, and Skinny Dreese, Meredith learned to love music.
Meanwhile his older brother Eldred schooled him in the arts necessary for a young man to master on the hills and prairies of Central Montana: shooting rabbits for dinner, riding double on ol' Shorty without holding on to El, fishing and swimming in the Musselshell, golfing on the prairie, and boxing. To toughen Meredith up, El bought his young sibling a pair of boxing gloves, taught him the basics of pugilism, and set up boxing matches against all the neighbor kids.
Meredith attended DePauw University then left school to join the Civilian Conservation Corps where he helped to build roads and bridges in Gallatin Canyon. He graduated from the University of Montana with a degree in law in 1938. In 1941, motivated by patriotic fervor, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps. While stationed at Stockton Air Base in California, Meredith met his future wife Barbara Graham on a picnic, December 7, 1941, but word of the bombing at Pearl Harbor sent him hurrying back to the base. After a whirlwind courtship, Meredith and Barbara married, April 4, 1942, and then endured a long separation while he was stationed in England. During the war, Meredith served in the Judge Advocates General's Corps, and after the war, in the Air Force Reserve until he retired at 65, with the rank of Colonel.
At the end of World War II, Meredith and Barbara made their home in Roundup, Montana, where he practiced law and where their three children, Saralyn (1947), John (1950), and Virginia (1956) were born. Meredith's career path led him to the political arena; he held office as the Musselshell County Attorney. However, he grew tired of, as he said, "putting poor bastards behind bars" and decided to make a radical career change. He returned to college in his 40s and in 1963 earned a master's degree in mathematics from Montana State University. He taught math at Fullerton Community College until retirement in 1980. He loved teaching and focused on those students for whom math was most daunting. Then Meredith and Barbara returned to Montana to build a home in Bozeman.
In retirement, Meredith carried on his lifelong love affair with golf, walking the course well into his mid 90s; he always refused to ride a cart. He and Barbara explored Greece and England and cruised the Inland Passage.
Meredith once said his greatest joys were his grandkids. He passed on to them his love of the outdoors, one night waking his granddaughters to show them a herd of deer feeding on their lawn in the moonlight. With his grandchildren, he canoed, hiked and backpacked in the Crazies, the Tobacco Roots, the Gallatins and the Absarokas. And he never missed a ballgame, a recital, or a school play in which his grandchildren participated.
Meredith lost his beloved wife, Barbara, in 2002, and he is also preceded in death by his brother Eldred (Phyllis also deceased).
He is survived by his daughter Saralyn Sebern (Douglas deceased); his son John (Priscilla Weaver); his daughter Virginia Watts (Ron Chase); grandchildren Vanessa Simonds (Dan), Maya Bronston, Noah Watts (Caro), Garrett Chase (Kelsey), and Corey Chase; and great-grandson Zane Simonds.
Meredith lived a full life that encompassed careers in the military, law, politics, and education. He was a loving family member and an avid outdoorsman-truly a "man for all seasons."
Visitation will be held from 11:00 A.M. – 2:00 P.M. on Monday, January 14, 2013 at Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service, with a Memorial Service to follow at 2:00 P.M. Interment will take place at Sunset Memorial Gardens in Billings at 1:30 P.M. on Tuesday, January 15.
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