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Obit: Robert "Bob" Watts


April 5, 2019

Robert G. "Bob" Watts, 96, of East Rose Lake Drive in Canyon, Minn., died peacefully March 28, 2019.

Bob was born in Duluth on Nov. 12, 1922. He was a former Duluth News Tribune carrier and graduated from Duluth Central High School in 1940. At the age of 14 he became interested in the Minnesota National Guard, and at age 16, followed his father George's footsteps and became a member of the Guard. He was inducted into federal service, along with 30 from his graduating class, on Feb. 10, 1941. He spent more than 10 months in combat training in Louisiana, along with his father who was his First Sergeant, with the 125th Field Artillery Battalion, 34th "Red Bull" Infantry Division.

Then, on Dec. 7, 1941, along came Pearl Harbor and changed the lives of millions. Bob was deployed to combat overseas in World War II and served as battalion supply sergeant of the 125th Field Artillery, spending more than 500 days of combat in North Africa and Italy, including the Battle of Hill 609 in Tunisia and the Battle of Monte Cassino, Anzio in the Po Valley. When the American 34th Division captured the German 65th Infantry Division, finally the Italian Campaign ended for the 125th near Venice on May 5, 1945. After a surprise visit from his father in San Remo, Bob was shipped back to the shores of the U.S. and discharged from federal service at Camp McCoy, Wis. on Sept. 1, 1945. After he returned home he reenlisted in the Guard as a First Lieutenant in the Coastal Artillery, and separated from the Armed Forces in 1949.

After the war, Bob was employed by the F.I. Salter Company as a rental manager. Two years later he joined the Allstate Insurance Company as an insurance agent in the Duluth Sears store. A year later he was transferred to the Milwaukee office where he trained new agents. In 1950, as sales development manager for Allstate in Dallas, he opened numerous Allstate sales offices in Sears stores in the Southwest from New Orleans to Albuquerque, and was instrumental in helping create the "You're in good hands" Allstate logo. In 1958 he left Allstate to open his own independent insurance agency in North Dallas. In 1961 he sold his agency and was appointed sales manager of Niagara Health Equipment in the Dallas region. He also represented Certified Laboratories in Irving, Texas, until he returned to Duluth to work for the U.S. Postal Service, finally retiring in 1984 after serving as a rural carrier on the Iron Range. Bob was a 55-year member of Branch 114 of the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Along with this family, Bob resided year-round on Rose Lake for more than 50 years, and as a child he grew up spending his summer months on the shores of the lake in his folks' cabin in "God's Country."

Bob was an avid deer hunter for the past 84 years, co-founder of the Three Lakes Development Association, a member of the North Lakes Golf Association for more than 44 years, past president of the Eveleth Curling Club, and past secretary of the Minnesota Curling Association. He held a lifetime membership in the Duluth Curling Club and was their draw master for more than 37 years. He was also a member of the Milwaukee, Dallas and Duluth Elks Lodge No. 133, American Legion Post 71 and VFW Post 3044. He facilitated and helped develop the Sunrise Survivor's Group at Sunrise Memorial Park, and was president, treasurer and chaplain for the 125th Field Artillery Association. For the past 45 years Rev. Bob, as he was called, was active in organizing placing hundreds of American Flags on veterans' graves at two Hermantown cemeteries. With the depletion of his troops, he gathered support from the Boy Scouts of Troop 106 in Hermantown and the ever so loyal Channel 10, and the much needed help from Col. Penny Dieryck's 148th Fighter Wing, to help the 125th organize the Memorial Day program at Sunrise the past 12 years. The 125 FA Association has been meeting monthly for the past 68 years at the Pickwick, and Bob kept in touch with more than 200 veterans, widows, families and friends.

Bob dedicated his life to family, the Three Lakes Development Association, the Duluth Curling Club and the 125th. He received the Volunteer Excellence Award in 2006.

He was preceded in death by his parents George and Olga Watts, and his loving sister Helen McBride.

Bob is survived by his loving wife of 50 years, Lorrie; four daughters, Rita Atol and Barb (Jerry Roberts) of Las Vegas, Michelle (Les Lyons) of Proctor, and Robin (Dan Cicmil) of Hibbing; three sons, John (Jeanne Neal) of Plano, Texas, Robert Jr. (Debbie Neal) of Mansfield, Texas, and Steve (Kim) of Maple Grove, Minn.; and his brother George Jr. (Carol) of Canyon. He was especially proud of his 17 grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren, and four step-grandchildren.

Visitation: 9-11 a.m., followed by the burial service Saturday, April 6 at Sunrise Memorial Park Funeral Chapel, with complete military service accorded by the Duluth Combined Honor Guard. Please feel free to wear something patriotic.

All memorials to be sent to the Boy Scouts Troop 106 in Hermantown, or the building program at Sunrise Memorial Park.


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