Inducted: October 27, 2004
Andrew (Andy) Watson knew from an early age that he would devote his life to agriculture, but not necessarily the type of farming that was the background for his early formative years.
Mr. Watson was born on a dairy farm at Woodbridge in York County in 1937, the youngest of six children of Robert and Mary Watson. He received his elementary education at S.S. 12, Pine Grove, a mile and a half from the family farm. His secondary education was at Weston Collegiate and Vocational School. In those early years, he won many awards, including those at plowing matches.
Like his older brother, Norman, Mr. Watson went on to Guelph University, where he graduated in 1959 with a Bachelor of Science degree. He joined the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food that summer, and served as Assistant Agricultural Representative in Dufferin and Waterloo Counties, where he was deeply involved in Junior Farmer and 4-H programs. He coached several winning judging teams at provincial competitions and at the Royal Winter Fair.
He then became Northumberland County Agricultural Representative and in 1968, he moved to Chatham as Kent Agricultural Representative.
Here, Mr. Watson promoted the planting of windbreaks in a county that had seen too much fine topsoil lost to erosion. Today, many of these soil-savers are still evidence of this forward-looking, environmental project. Mr. Watson also organized farm tours, demonstrations and conferences to bring Kent farmers up-to-date with developments in a fast-changing agricultural industry.
He was influential in helping younger farmers get their Junior Farmer Loan Mortgages; sometimes involving the purchase from a parent of a family farm; or incorporation of the family farm to make room for a younger generation.
Mr. Watson wrote a column for weekly newspapers, "Jots and Thots for Kent County Farmers", still another effort to keep local farmers informed on what was happening in their industry.
In 1978, he was elected to the Ontario Legislative Assembly following the resignation of Darcy McKeough, and he served the Chatham-Kent riding until 1985. He had added responsibilities at Queen's Park as Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Community and Social Services, and as Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Energy.
Before his election and after, Mr. Watson provided solid support for the local committee's successful effort to bring the International Plowing Match to Kent County in 1979.
He served as Assistant Commissioner for Ontario with the Canadian Grain Commission from 1986 to 1994, in effective liaison with grain producers, marketing boards, elevators and dealers in this province. It was his job to relay the Grain Commission's policies and standards to all those in the grain industry.
In 1997, he became Farm Director for CFCO radio, and was the host of the popular daily Noon Farm Show, a source of current information and advice to farmers in the area. More recently, he has concentrated on Special Events, like the International Plowing Match, the Royal Winter Fair, and other occasions where farmers' interests are involved or at risk.
Mr. Watson's home is on the former River Road, Dover Township, on eight acres of land, north of the Thames River near Pain Court. He lives there with his wife, Kathryn (Mann). They operate a cut-your-own Christmas tree farm, and live in a triple-hexadome house known as "Wat-a-Dome" that he designed and built in 1988. The Christmas tree business is popular, not only with Christmas tree buyers, but with its founder, who finds pleasure in talking to customers looking for the ideal Christmas tree.
Mr. Watson's enjoyment of life in recent years has been heightened by his near-fatal experience with the rare Guillain Barre Syndrome, which paralyzed him and hospitalized him for four months. Through slow, but determined advances, he fought his way back from this illness, and has made a nearly complete recovery.
That experience has been the inspiration for talks with patients at Parkwood Hospital, in London, where he spent many weeks; and with Rotary and other local groups.
He is the father of four children, Ann, of Toronto; Carol Stewart, of Woodstock; Mary Harrison, of Aurora; and Ian, of St. John's, Newfoundland. There are five grandchildren.
Mr. Watson is a member of St. Andrew's United Church, of the St.Andrew's Residence Board, of the Ontario Institute of Agrologists and of the Chatham Rotary Club.
In 2002, Mr. Watson was named the Chatham and District Chamber of Commerce Agriculturist of the Year, at the Chamber's 56th Annual Rural Urban Dinner.
His friends, including Stan Wonnacott, admire him for his skills, which have been used to enhance his own life and the lives of others. John Wilson said Andy has used his amazing woodworking talents to benefit Blenheim Rotary's Biennial Auction. In 1994, he created a child's Oak Express Wagon; and two years later, a Cherry Deacon's Bench.
In 1998, Mr. Watson designed and made an Oak Bentwood Child's Sleigh; and two years later, he created a Cedar Chest, make exclusively of Cedar, for which the buyer bid $425. His 2002 woodworking creation was a Mission Style Coffee Table, made of Cherry. Mr. Wilson has donated the various woods from his bush. Through his illness, Mr. Watson resolutely planned, and later executed his contribution to the Auction Sale.
Mr. Wilson said: "Having this great love of woodworking helped him overcome his debilitating Guillain Barre affliction."
For New Year's Eve, 1999, Mr. Watson created a special Cedar Box which was later buried with mementos from all the guests. Only time will tell if it will live up to the creator's expectations and stay sound for 50 years.
Mr. Watson has enjoyed every one of his seven careers. As friends explain it, "He loves life, and he loves doing things."