WATKINS, GLORIA DICKINSON (1923 ~ 2009). The following is an obituary for Gloria Dickinson Watkins, spouse of George Hall Watkins, former Member and Chairman, Board of Trustees, Employees Retirement System. The obituary was published in the May 29, 2009 edition of the Austin American Statesman.
"A letter from Gloria Dickinson Watkins, who died Monday, May 25, 2009 at the age of 85 after battling advancing years and ongoing illnesses:
After a full life of cherished times with family and friends, I have passed away. I've long known my death was coming. I thought I would have passed away before now, certainly before my husband, George Hall Watkins. I have tried to face my oncoming death with as much dignity, spirit and strength as possible, and I hope I was successful. When you come to the end of your life, it is hard to say if you have made a real difference. It's usually up to those left behind to say for sure. I have always cared for my family and tried to help others. Those qualities were ingrained into me by my parents, James Orman and Molly Johnson Dickinson
For those who don't know, I was born on Nov. 19, 1923 in Altoona, which was then a little coal-mining town in northeast Alabama. The town had mining camps, farms and some businesses and industry, including the Gadsden Steel Mills. My father accepted the job of principal at Altoona Elementary and High School and my mother was pregnant with me when we arrived in that hot August of 1923. Looking back, I marvel at her bravery and admire her Southern qualities as an expectant mother leaving comfortable surroundings and moving to a small house that lacked many conveniences. I admired my parents and copied their examples all my life as best I could. And what wonderful examples they were: high-principled Christian people. My dad was in education 50 years. He was a teacher and served as principal 25 years before being elected the county superintendent of education. His dealings with school boards and political opponents gave me an early taste of the world of politics I would re-enter when I eventually moved to Texas. While in school, I decided I wanted to become a home economics teacher because mine had made such a big impression on me. So I went to the University of Alabama where I made many wonderful friends, including some that would be involved in me meeting my future husband. Before graduating, World War II broke out and I joined the war effort. I worked at Brookley Air Base in Alabama before returning to receive my degree.
After graduation I visited a former schoolmate in California and ended up taking a job at Consolidated Shipbuilders. As the war was winding down and the demands for ships dropped, I decided to return to teaching. Coachella Valley now is a beautiful place, miles of beautiful homes and shops. Then it was a rural farming area with many migrant farm workers. The school for migrant workers' children was desperate for a teacher after the students had run off more than one in the preceding months. After one year of teaching in the desert I returned to Alabama to care for my ailing mother.
Back in Alabama, a classmate from the University of Alabama, Studie Staples, introduced me to a fellow Marine named George Watkins. Many of my friends have heard the story of how George and I met "in a fox hole on Iwo Jima" through our mutual friend Studie. George and I got married in 1948 and had a wonderful family, including sons Jonathan George Watkins (1953) and Jeffrey Orman Watkins (1956). After our marriage, George and I settled in Texas where he worked for Sears and Roebuck. We were fortunate when Sears assigned George to the Austin office where George and I began our long history of work for state government and where we raised our two boys.
Over the years, I was honored to work for some of the brightest and most powerful figures in Texas politics: Gov. John Connelly, Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes and Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby. My friends and co-workers toiled many long, long days in the state capital, but they were exciting times too. We were witnesses to the behind-the-scenes action in an era of major change.
When you come to the end of your life, it is hard to say if you have made a difference. Everyone leaves a ripple in their wake and you can only hope yours produces positive, loving results. I am proud of my work in state government and my many years of volunteer efforts at the LBJ Library in Austin. I've enjoyed many friends and I've had a family I cherished. Being a mother was the role I loved best of all. Having children was the most loving and meaningful experience of my life. I would like to think that the world is a slightly better place for my having been in it. Friends and family will be the judge of that.
So do not grieve for me, at least not much, because I have had a good life, one full of love. I hope that my family and friends remember me with the same love that I felt toward them. Goodby.
Visitation will be Friday, May 29, 2009 with family present from 6-9 pm at Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home, 2620 South Congress, Austin. A Memorial Service for Gloria will be held at 10 am, Saturday, May 30, 2009 at Weed-Corley-Fish Chapel on S. Congress followed by a burial ceremony and reception at the Texas State Cemetery, 909 Navasota between East 7th and East 11th Streets, Austin from 12-2 pm. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the charity of your choice or the Humane Society of the United States."
Further information is available through the Texas State Cemetery research department.