(05/20/2004)
Wirt County educator, coach and well-known citizen Ray Watson has died at age 80, leaving behind a vast number of friends and acquaintances.

He died Tuesday, unexpectantly, in a Charleston hospital of heart complications.

Residents recalled his near-death experience before a WVU football game in 1992 before the Pitt game.

The gregarious Watson touched the lives of many Wirt Countians, young and old.

Services will be 2 pm Friday at the Elizabeth Baptist Church in Elizabeth, with the Rev. Mark McCloy officiating. Visitation will be 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. today and from 9 a.m.-noon Friday at Matheny Funeral Home in Elizabeth. He will lie in state one hour prior to the services at the church.

He graduated from Weston High School in 1942. He attended Bethany College with the Navy V-12 program and Glenville State College, where he graduated in 1947. While at Glenville, he was captain of the Pioneer football team. His talents as a football player earned him recognition as a member of the All-Time 50 Year Glenville State College Team, member of the West Virginia Conference All-Time All-Conference 50 Year Football Team and an offer to play for the Philadelphia Eagles. Mr. Watson also attended Pre-Midshipman School at Asbury Park, N.J., and Midshipman School at Cornell University. He also earned double master's degrees from West Virginia University.

He served his country for six years as a member of the United States Navy during World War II and the Korean Conflict as a special services officer. He served in the Pacific Theater as a skipper of an LCT 1311 and was discharged as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserves.

He was well-known throughout the state of West Virginia as a great high school and college football coach. He coached football, basketball and baseball at Rupert High School from 1947-1950. He was head coach at Pt. Mugu-Naval Air Missile Center in Oxnard, Calif., where his team was the 11th Navel District Champions. He was the line coach of the Amphibious Force Pacific, Coronado, Calif. He coached basketball and football at Wirt County High School from 1954-1956, where his team was the 1956 Little Kanawha Conference Champions and then was Class A State Runner-up. He was head coach at the West Virginia Institute of Technology in Montgomery from 1957-1959, where he has the highest winning percentage of any Tech coach who coached more than 20 games in their career. He was defensive coordinator for the West Virginia University Mountaineers from 1960-1963.

After his stint as coach at WVU, he was called back to Wirt County High School where he served as principal from 1963-1979. Mr. Watson then "retired" only to come back and serve as Wirt's principal again and then head football coach at Federal Hocking High School in Stewart, Ohio, head football coach at Eastern High School in Reedsville, Ohio, where they were S.V.A.C. Tri-Champs and head coach at Hamilton Junior High School in Parkersburg. He also worked at Bow Valley Petroleum Resources in Palestine, W.Va.

He was president of the Little Kanawha Athletic Conference for three years, a member of the Board of Appeals of the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission and was elected to the Elizabeth City Council and the Wirt County Board of Education. He served on the Wirt County Development Authority, the Wirt County Health Board, the Mid-Ohio Valley Hall of Fame Committee, and was commissioner of the Wirt County Little League for 16 years. He was a member of the AFM Lodge 82, part president of the Lions Club in Elizabeth and founder of the Wirt County Pop Warner football league, where he coached for three years.

His other honors include being named Principal of the Year by the WV Coaches' Association, Retired Coach of the Year by the WV Coaches' Association, Lewis County Sports Great, WVU Institute of Technology Hall of Fame, Glenville State College Hall of Fame and the Mid-Ohio Valley Sports Hall of Fame.

He was a member of the Elizabeth Baptist Church, where he served as deacon, Sunday school teacher, Sunday school superintendent, "song leader" and trustee.

He was an avid golfer and a member of Mingo Bottom Golf Course. He loved to read and to work the USA Today crossword puzzle. He was often said to have "forgotten more football than most people know in a lifetime." He loved music and had an extensive and varied CD collection. Most of all, he loved people and talking to them.

He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Beatrice "Bea" Stewart Watson; a daughter, Becky Watson and her husband, Rodney; a son, Mike and his wife, Kandy; four grandchildren, Brian and Julie Watson, Ericka Watson Miller and husband, Michael, and Michelle Watson.

He was born July 23, 1923, in Oliphant, Pa., a son of the late George and Mary Fletcher Watson.

He was preceded in death by his parents; a sister, Carol; and two brothers, Robert and John.

At the request of the family, memorial contributions may be made to the Elizabeth Baptist Church Building Fund, 804 Mulberry St., PO Box 637, Elizabeth, WV 26143 or the Wirt County High School Athletic Department, PO Box 219, Elizabeth, WV 26143.


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