Ralph V. Watts, Sr.
June 29, 1924 – December 28, 2013
Ralph V. Watts, Sr., better known as Daddy to his children and Grandfather to 105 grandchildren, died peacefully the evening of December 28, 2013, at home, surrounded by his children and grandchildren.
In order to fully grasp the driving forces in a person’s life, it is critical to place him or her into the context of the circumstances of their own journey. Ralph V. Watts, Sr., is part of The Greatest Generation. He was born in 1924 at the beginning of what would become known as The Great Depression and he lived through World War II. Key life values characterize this man: a personal relationship to Jesus Christ through which he viewed all of life, a commitment to family no matter what, common sense, a strong work ethic, a “can do” mindset, a strong sense of responsibility, integrity, generosity, and a “no whining” policy.
Born in Townsend, Delaware, he was the son of the late Vernon P. Watts and Hannah Wright Watts. A graduate of Middletown High School, he served as a bombardier in the US Army/ Air Corps during WWII. Mr. Watts married his high school sweetheart, Lauretta Eleanor George. Together they raised seven children and built a strong legacy of faith and family.
At the young age of 23, he began his lifelong career as a contractor. As owner of Watts Construction Company, he built numerous houses in Middletown, Delaware, and created the housing development, Sharondale. He started a carpenter’s apprenticeship and “graduated” the first African American carpenter in Delaware. He oversaw the building of forty-five gas stations while co-owner of Delaire Builders. In 1975 he founded a design-build contracting business, Watco, Inc., where he continued to work until present day. His meticulous workmanship can be found in the numerous churches and Christian schools he built throughout Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Mr. Watts provided jobs for untold numbers of young people who learned how to work hard, no matter how insignificant the job may have seemed to them. He was a community leader. He started the Delaware Blood Bank and was recently acknowledged for donating his rare blood type every three months for most of his life, giving a total of over 30 gallons. He helped start the National Guard in Middletown, and was very active in the Middletown Lions Club in the early years of his marriage.
Mr. Watts designed and constructed numerous buildings, but building his family and God’s Kingdom took precedence as he grew in his personal relationship to Jesus Christ. His deep faith in a personal God shaped his conviction that investing time in his family was the greatest gift he could give to his world. Over the years as he welcomed 105 grandchildren into the family, he intentionally created opportunities for the entire family to gather and create lifelong bonds. He was an active member of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church for fifty-four years and served as a Ruling Elder and on numerous committees, where he earned the reputation of a problem solver. Mr. Watts is well known throughout the church community for his support of missions, both locally and worldwide.
Throughout his life, Mr. Watts presence at hundreds of children’s programs, concerts, plays, sports competitions and other activities not only encouraged his children and grandchildren to pursue excellence in their education, music studies and other creative dreams but also helped cultivate his relationships with them. He was “always there” for his family, whether locally or across the country. He helped provide the means for many of his grandchildren to pursue their education, through music lessons, providing musical instruments, and tuition assistance.
Whenever he was asked how he accomplished so much or solved what seemed like an impossible problem, he would hesitate, slowly shake his head, and with a tiny smile, say, “It’s the Lord. It has to be the Lord.”
Mr. Watts’ life is a genuine reflection of what it means to be ever growing, ever green as described in Psalm 92:12-15: The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The Lord is upright; he is my Rock and there is no wickedness in him.”
During the last years of his life, he intentionally focused on “sanding” out his spiritual rough edges and as a result the sweetness of Christ in him flowed out in even deeper ways.
Mr. Watts showed his family how to live with deep faith, a love for family and a strong work ethic. In the last weeks of his life, he showed them how to die with grace, humility, and dignity. He finished well. As his family walked with him up to the edge of heaven, they knew that soon he would hear His Savior say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a few things, now I will put you in charge of many things.” (Matthew 25:21)
In addition to his parents, Mr. Watts was preceded in death by his lifelong wife, Eleanor, on December 28, 1998, and two brothers, Harold B. Watts and B. Franklin Watts. He is survived by his children, Ralph V. Watts, Jr. (Karen) of Hilliard, OH, Sharon W. Betters (Rev. Charles) of Bear, DE, James M. Watts (Nina) of Newark, DE. Gayle W. Voshell (the late Glenn Voshell) of Crab Orchard, KY, Bonnie W. Lewis (Robert) of Victor, ID, Jane Anne Wilson (David) of Newark, DE and Roberta W. Dosa (Col. Brian) of Harker Heights, TX and a combined total of 105 grandchildren, great grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 2 pm on Tuesday, December 31st at Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Newark, 308 Possum Park Road, Newark, DE where friends may call from 1:00 – 2:00 pm. Interment will be private.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to A Door of Hope, 218 E. Main Street, Ste. 114, Newark, DE 19711.