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Donald R. Watts Born January 31, 1918, in Berkeley, California, died peacefully at Alma Via in San Rafael on February 18th, 2011, of heart failure. Don had recently celebrated his 93rd birthday with his children at Marin Joe's; enjoying a long anticipated hamburger which he declared was the best ever. Don graduated from Berkeley High in 1935 and the University of California in 1939 where he was one of the top 3 or 4 quarter milers in the country. His high school coach informed him that he didn't have the makings of a great sprinter and to try another sport; yet, in 1939, Donald Watts broke the world record in the 440 while running the final lap of a mile relay! That tenacity and spirit was to serve him well throughout his life of 93 years. He had aspirations of making the U.S. Olympic Team, but the raging war in Europe caused the cancellation of the 1940 summer Olympics in Helsinki. That same year, Don married his sweetheart, Jane Hamshaw. This was the beginning of a wonderful love and friendship that endured through 68 years of marriage. After serving as a naval officer in the Aleutian Islands and in the Charleston, South Carolina, shipyards during WWII, Don returned home to the soon to be booming Bay Area and settled in Greenbrae. He and Jane raised a family in their Greenbrae home and lived there for sixty years. Upon Jane's death in 2009, Don moved to his new home at Alma Via. One of his favorite moments at Alma Via was the annual talent show. Last year, his friend, Rev Donene, sang "Hey There" (a Jane and Don favorite) so beautifully. Many didn't know that Don was a big fan of singing and musicals. He would sometimes surprise you with his nice voice. Don had a long, varied and successful financial and business career, working for a number of years out of the Russ Building in San Francisco. He was a CPA, controller of Portland Cement, vice president of Pacific Coast Co. (timber operations), president of Pacific Coast Transport Co. (ocean tankers), and was involved in oil drilling operations in the Southwest. He opened a West Coast office for a British conglomerate out of Hong Kong, Jardine Matheson, and was a financial consultant to many small businesses, two in the food industry, Chalet 21 and Amy's Kitchen. At an age when most people are well into retirement, he became CFO of Amy's Kitchen and worked for them for twenty years. During that time, Amy's grew from a small Petaluma based company to a leading producer of organic vegetarian foods with worldwide distribution. He also found time to be treasurer of SIRS and to help numerous family and friends with their financial accounts. He retired last spring from Amy's at the age of 92. Don was an avid hiker all his life and anyone who has ever hiked with him knows the exhaustive pace he kept. He was still climbing Sierra peaks well into his 80's. He and Jane traveled extensively throughout the West. These trips began to spark his interest in western rivers and he talked about writing a book, "Rivers I Have Crossed." In later years, the dream vacation spot of choice was Maui along the Wailea coast. He was a big football fan; had 49er season tickets beginning when they played at Kezar Stadium. In the past few years the stairs at the Cal Bear's Stadium became a little too steep, but watching college football games on television made up for it in Don's eyes. Don will be remembered for his intelligence, integrity, generosity, and sincere personal interest in everyone he met. He helped many people in their careers and career choices. His incredible memory for people, places, names and faces delighted the people he met. He was a well-respected and well-loved man. He will be missed a lot. Don was predeceased by his daughter Robin in 1981, his parents Leontine Rickard Watts and Louie Watts, his sister Barbara Lasalle, his younger brother Peter Watts, a pilot who vanished in his B38 on a mission over the Solomon islands in the Pacific during WW II, and his beloved wife, Jane Hamshaw Watts, an accomplished actress and director. He is survived by his son Michael Watts of Mill Valley, daughter Karen Watts of San Rafael, son-in-law Thomas Dreke, grandson Augustine Watts-Dreke, and daughter Holly Watts of San Francisco. He is also survived by his younger sister Helen Wysham, sister-in-law Phyllis Cain, cousins Pat Anderson and Dick Watts, several nieces and nephews and numerous friends and business associates. A memorial service for Don will be held at Alma Via in San Rafael Sunday, April 3 at 2:00 PM. Donations may be made in his name to the University of California Athletic Program, 195 Haas Pavilion # 4422, Berkeley, California 94720 or a charity of your choice.
Published in Marin Independent Journal from Mar. 24 to Mar. 25, 2011
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