Dawson County lost one of its pillars last Tuesday, Oct. 29, as Wayne Watkins passed away at the age of 74. Watkins was a man of character, service and generosity, and gave greatly to this community.
Wayne moved to Dawson County in 2004 and immediately got to work in the community. In 2005, he was one of the founding members of Grace Presbyterian Church and remained a key part of the leadership there until they were officially chartered in 2010.
He served as a deacon at the church and played a pivotal role in bringing David Jordan to his current role as pastor of the church.
“Wayne was the first church member to speak to me following the completion of my very first sermon as a guest preacher at Grace,” recalled Jordan. “His initial greeting following my message was, ‘Do you have a job?’ Thanks to Wayne’s enthusiasm and influence, in just a couple of weeks I did have a new job. At Grace.”
On top of his church involvement was his service to community and those in need. Watkins served on the board of the Good Shepherd Clinic, a free clinic that helps members of the Dawson County community that do not have insurance.
He also was a proud supporter and volunteer with Grace in a Box, a local meal ministry that delivered box meals; the Dawson County Search and Rescue; and the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce.
“I had not known Wayne until we both were in the 2010-2011 Dawson County Chamber Leadership Class,” said Carol Tyger, Leadership Chair for the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce. “I was his partner in one of the team building activities. He was a friendly man who always took the time to stop and talk whenever I saw him. Wayne spent a lot of time volunteering at the Good Shepard clinic. A great patriot who contributed a lot to the Veterans program in our county."
Wayne’s impact in Dawson County was far-reaching, but perhaps no segment of the community had his heart like the veterans.
Watkins’ service extended beyond his community to his country. He served valiantly in Vietnam for two tours as a combat infantryman, where he earned 21 medals including the Bronze Star and the Silver Star, the nation’s third-highest personal decoration for valor in combat.
From leading community services for Memorial Day, Veterans’ Day, and 9/11, to organizing and chartering Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 970, Wayne gave everything to his fellow vets, who he called his brothers.
Don Brown, former president of Veterans Affairs of Dawson County and current secretary of VVA #970, called Watkins a champion for veterans and the VVA.
“By champion, I don’t mean somebody who goes out and wins races, you know that kind of a champion. I mean for the organization — a fellow who had a firm belief in the Vietnam Veterans of America and a firm belief in the brotherhood,” said Brown.
“He touched a lot of people,” Brown added. “He touched a lot of lives here in Dawson County.”
Christie Moore, president of the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce, described Wayne as “the type of friend and man that everyone hopes to know once in their lifetime. He was the definition of a gentleman, a man of his word, and the first person to volunteer. He was a devoted husband, a faithful church leader, a veteran with a passion for supporting all those who have served, and an unparalleled heart for this community.”
“There are not adequate words to express how much he will be missed or how much he meant to this community,” she said.
“Wayne proved that everyone can have a tremendous impact on their community if they are willing to give and serve,” said Pastor Jordan. “I hope people will remember what a generous and selfless individual that Wayne showed himself to be. He used every gift and ability he had to help his community be a better place for everyone. He will be impossible to replace. May we never forget his genuine humanity.”
Watkins was truly a man who loved his wife, his county, his community, and his God. He was the first to help a newcomer to the county and the first to volunteer when something needed doing. He will be sorely missed by everyone who knew him, but his legacy of kindness and service will live on.