That day Watson, 78, was scheduled to provide snacks for the congregants at Church of St. Michael and All Angels in Anniston, where she and her husband were longtime members. Already ill with what she didn't then know was pneumonia, Mrs. Watson prepared the food, delivered it to the church, and returned to her Jacksonville home to rest without attending the service that day. Within hours Mrs. Watson was admitted to the hospital, and she died a week later at Regional Medical Center in Anniston.
In life, she was known for being the wife of retired former Fort McClellan commander Maj. Gen. Gerald Watson, for being a mother, a mother-in-law and a grandmother, and for her service to other military families.
“If you had to sum up my mother’s life, it was service to God, service to family and service to country,” her son Darryl Watson said.
Shortly after graduating from Trinity University in San Antonio, where Gerald and Carol Ann earned academic degrees, the high-school sweethearts married in 1957 and he became a commissioned officer. During their nearly 60 years of marriage, the Watsons moved several times; he was stationed at Fort McClellan three times before the couple retired in Calhoun County in the early ’90s.
Mrs. Watson was twice recognized by the Army for her leadership as a military wife, and the Secretary of the Army approved a medal named the Carol Ann Watson Award to be given to spouses in the Chemical Regiment for exceptional service to the nation and to Army families.
“She has been very active in trying to make it a better place for other people,” said her husband. “I think she will be remembered for that.”
For most of Mrs. Watson’s adult life she was a homemaker and a volunteer, but she did work intermittently outside the home, such as with school children at various military installations including Fort McClellan.
On each base his family moved to, and in each community that surrounded it, Mrs. Watson became an established member of the volunteer community, Darryl Watson said. Within the Army, she supported units by sending care packages with reminders from home, including Twinkies and Tabasco sauce, he said. Her son said she also lent moral support to women and children who were left behind on bases while their husbands and fathers were stationed across the globe.
“My mother was extremely dedicated to the army community and the family,” said Darryl Watson, a Jacksonville High School graduate who practices law in Georgia, where he lives with his wife and three children.
Retired Col. Walton Phillips first met the Watsons at Fort McClellan in the early ’60s. During the decades he knew the couple, they were assigned to work on several of the same projects and spent at least three years as neighbors.
“Carol Ann has been what you would say is the ideal wife of a senior officer,” Phillips said. “She was always looking out for families.”
He said during one of their joint stints at Fort McClellan his own wife, Lucy Phillips, developed terminal cancer. For ten months, Phillips said, Mrs. Watson visited her every day, bringing coffee when she came.
Phillips said he last saw the Watsons over the holidays.
“She was still doing things for people,” Phillips said.
Mrs. Watson helped the community outside the military bases, usually through volunteer work with the American Red Cross and the Episcopal church.
“My mother certainly felt it was her responsibility to reach out to the civilian community,” Darryl Watson said.
In Anniston she worked in the community at the Anniston Soup Bowl, the American Red Cross and St. Michael's Clinic. She also was part of women's groups at the church and was involved in the Inter-Se Study Club.
In recent years, Maj. Gen. Watson also spearheaded a local display of Wreaths Across America, a holiday wreath-laying ceremony that is recognized at an event at Fort McClellan. On Dec. 14 she attended the gravestone decorating ceremony.
Mrs. Watson’s funeral will be today at 2:30 p.m. at The Church of St. Michael and All Angels. A reception will follow the service in Lagarde Hall at the church. Burial will be at Arlington National Cemetery.
She is survived by her husband, retired Maj. Gen. Gerald G. Watson; two sons, Maj. Gen. Bryan Watson and his wife, Kris, and Darryl Watson, and his wife, Janie, four grandchildren, Rachel Watson of Chicago, Ill., Zachariah Watson, Thomas Watson and Samuel Watson, all of Acworth, Ga.; a sister, Dorothy Christie, of Utah, and her dog, Dixie.
Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LGaddy_Star.