Nation’s oldest doctor, 102, dies after fall; ‘He was an icon’

  • Posted: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 10:03 p.m.
    UPDATED: Thursday, October 25, 2012 2:46 p.m.
Dr. Curly Watson was in the U.S. Army in 1945. Watson, of North Augusta, passed away Wednesday at the age of 102.
Dr. Curly Watson was in the U.S. Army in 1945. Watson, of North Augusta, passed away Wednesday at the age of 102.

He brought some 15,000 babies into this world in his 60 years in medicine. He was a football coach and team physician. He was an “icon” in his community, and someone who could never say no to his church. And on Wednesday, Dr. W. G. “Curly” Watson died in Augusta at age 102.

Watson, the nation’s oldest physician, died early Wednesday of complications related to a fall at his home in North Augusta during the weekend, a spokesperson for University Hospital said. He had been hospitalized in the hospital’s intensive care unit.

“It’s the passing of an icon in this community,” said the Rev. Dr. John Younginer, former minister of Grace United Methodist Church in North Augusta, where Watson was a member. “He was an icon because of his commitment to service of his fellow man. He practiced that in his profession as a physician, and as a Christian layman.”

Younginer met Watson when he arrived at Grace in 1977, and the two were friends since. He said Watson was an outstanding member of the church, and he chaired a variety of committees and even served as an usher until just a few months ago.

When a fire in July 1983 destroyed the church, Younginer asked Watson to chair a committee to rebuild.

“He said, ‘I’ve never said no to my church,’” Younginer recalled. “He was so highly respected by people. Whenever he spoke, he would do it very quietly, but people would listen.”

Watson worked at University Hospital for more than 60 years, during which he also served as team physician for the North Augusta High School football team, Younginer said. There, he shared with the students a creed that he lived by: “Always do your best. Never give up. Room is at the top. Be a lady. Be a gentleman.”

“He’d give that to these young people, young athletes and other people, too, and that’s the way he lived,” Younginer said.

He visited Watson in the hospital every day this week, including Tuesday.

“He obviously heard my voice and understood who I was. Tuesday, I’m not sure that he did,” Younginer said.

He said people will miss Watson’s presence the most.

“His presence in anything conveyed something to people,” he said. “I’ve looked to him as a mentor, as a friend and as an example of what any of us would like to be. He’s meant all that to me.”

Watson leaves behind five children, 16 grandchildren, 22 great-grandchildren and a sister.

The funeral will be 10 a.m. Saturday at Grace United Methodist Church in North Augusta. The family will receive friends from 4 to 7 p.m. at the church’s Wesley Center. Arrangements are being handled by Rowland Funeral Home in North Augusta.

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