James "Nollie" Watts
1919 ~ 2013
James "Nollie" Watts died peacefully after a brief illness in Gulfport, Mississippi, in the company of family. He was 94.
Born on March 23, 1919 in McComb, Mississippi to the late Thomas Nollie Watts and Mary Patterson Watts, Nollie attended Mississippi State University until 1940 when he went to work in the Ingalls Shipyards of Pascagoula, helping to build warships for the expanding United States Navy, and the critically-important "Lend-Lease" program that helped save Britain from defeat by Nazi Germany in the Battle of the Atlantic. In 1941, he volunteered for the U.S. Coastguard, stationed off Biloxi to guard shipping channels against Nazi submarine attacks.
Upon honorable discharge at war's end, Nollie served the U.S. Geological Survey in Alaska before moving to Colorado to finish engineering degrees at the University of Colorado/Boulder and at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden. Upon graduation he worked for the Bureau of Mines in Rifle, Colorado and met his first wife, the late Lainys Dawson, in nearby Glenwood Springs, where they wed on August 20, 1950 and lived until moving to Grand Junction, Colorado when he began his career as a mining and safety engineer with the Atomic Energy Commission, thereafter a short stint as an executive with the Western Colorado Council of the Boy Scouts, imparting to all his life-long love of the outdoors, and service to community.
In 1955 he was transferred to Grants, New Mexico, with wife Lainys and son James Nollie ("Jim"—born 1952) and daughter Susan Leigh (born 1955). Finding the largely rural uranium boom-town without adequate hospital facilities within 70 miles to serve its exploding population, Mr. Watts spearheaded the creation of the Western Valencia Health and Welfare Coordinating Council to procure funding to build what is now Cibola General Hospital. The now state-of-the-art hospital celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2009, and honored co-founder Nollie in 2012. Nollie's life accomplishment of selfless service to community and nation was honored by several members of the United States Congress earlier this year; including by Senators Diane Feinstein and Roger Wicker, Representative Steven Palazzo, and Representative Adam Schiff who on July 31 gave a speech on the floor of the United States House of Representatives which was broadcast on CSPAN, and entered in the Congressional Record.
In 1957, he was transferred back to Grand Junction, again with the AEC. Son Rick arrived in 1960, and daughter Jane in 1965. Nollie served as a volunteer leader with the Boy Scouts which as a youth he had earned his Eagle rank (and which honored him as an adult with it's prestigious "Silver Beaver" award), and as Council President with the Girl Scouts. He chaired the Mesa County Safety Council, and earned certification as an Emergency Medical Technician and as a Paramedic, volunteering his services with St. Mary's Hospital and teaching First Aid for the American Red Cross.
After the 1975 death of Lainys, Nollie found love again and married Barbara Phelps Fugate on June 23, 1979, and his family once again enlarged with the addition of Carter (born 1966), Danette (born 1969), and Paul (born 1974. Upon retirement in 1984, Nollie, Barbara and the youngest 4 children moved to Gulfport, Mississippi, where they both volunteered in their community, and wife Barbara built a successful dance studio. After the loss of their home to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Nollie and Barbara rebuilt elsewhere, where they lived until Nollie's passing on Tuesday. Nollie was also a member of Kappa Sigma Fraternity, and thr First United Methodist Church of Gulfport. He was also a Mason.
He is survived by his wife of 34 years, Barbara, daughters Susan, Jane and Danette, sons Paul and Rick, ten grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. He is preceded in passing by first wife Lainys, and sons Carter (died 1994) and Jim (died 2002).
Friends may visit the family on Friday, December 20, 2013 from 3:00pm until 4:00pm at RIEMANN FAMILY FUNERAL HOME, 11280 Three Rivers Rd., Gulfport. The funeral service will begin at 4:00pm in the funeral home chapel. Burial will be at Biloxi National Cemetery at a later date.
Tributes may be shared at www.riemannfamily.com
Riemann Family Funeral Home
11280 Three Rivers Road Gulfport, MS 39503
Published in The Sun Herald on Dec. 20, 2013