Bill Watson

Bill Steelman Watson, Hope, AR, was welcomed into heaven and came face to face with his Lord Jesus Christ on August 13, 2022 at age 98. He was born February 12, 1924 on the Priddy Place at Locust Bayou, Arkansas to William Robert and Sarah Mittie Steelman Watson in the presence of six brothers Homer, Hubert, Buddy, Robert and Tom and three sisters Carrie, Annie Mae and Mittie Ruth. A loving childhood was spent in Tinsman and Hampton, AR. “Little Bill” was the apple of his Mother’s Eye and she always said he was a “good boy”.

Bill graduated from Hampton High School and took part in drama and basketball and helped build a gymnasium during his time there. He attended Monticello A&M and graduated from Oklahoma State University with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture in 1946. While there he lived and worked at the estate of Judge Brown Moore who had a profound influence on his life.

His college days were interrupted in 1943 when he enlisted in the Army Air Corp fulfilling a life-long dream to be a “Fly Boy”. He flew B26’s and Martin Marauders and was honorably discharged just as the war ended.

In 1945, Bill married the little girl he first saw when she was five years old swinging on a board swing behind “Two Story Joe” in Hampton, AR, Sybil Dot Newton. They shared a life of love and adventure for 59 years and to this union were born two daughters Deborah Jean and Barbara Scott.

The newlyweds moved back to Hampton, AR where Bill taught school at his alma mater and established a vocational agriculture department. His astute sense of people and his keen gift of communication led him to be an excellent educator, business man, pastor and community servant.

Following his passion for flying he bought into El Dorado Flying Service and managed a crop dusting business moving it to Hope, AR in 1952 where he operated a fixed-base operation at the Hope Municipal Airport until 1954. Many Hope citizens benefited from his teaching and instruction to fly airplanes.

Freeda Roth Greenan often flew into Hope Airport establishing Corn Belt Hatcheries. Bill became a partner in that business and was a pioneer in building the poultry industry in Southwest Arkansas seeing immense innovation and growth. He was Vice President and General Manager of Corn Belt Hatcheries and oversaw the sale and acquisition by Kroger, Inc. While a part of the business community in Hope he was a member of the Hope School Board, serving as President, a Deacon at First Baptist Church and President of the Arkansas Poultry Federation.

Bill retired in 1974 and for 25 years he and Sybil fulfilled a life-long dream of motor home travel. They traveled extensively all over the United States and Canada as Good Sam’s and members of the Bluebird Travel Club. They made a world of friends during this time in their lives.

Calling upon his communication skills again he also spent time in his retirement as an Ambassador for Campus Crusade for Christ leading weekend retreats all over the region. His passion and commitment for sharing Christ was a driving force in his life. He was a founding member of Hope Community Church, and their first Pastor, where he applied a style of exegetical bible teaching to his congregation.

A long life can mean that you outlive friends, family and loved ones. Bill was fortunate to have met and married Margaret Parham six years ago and they created a life full of love and companionship.

Bill is preceded in death by his parents and eight siblings, his wife of 59 years, Sybil, and a late in life companion, Claudia Zimmerman Riley. He is survived by his wife of six years, Margaret Parham Watson, his daughter Debbie Malek (Mike), his daughter Barbie Brunner (Gene), Lisa Boyce (Wesley), Sharron Bowen (Ken), five grandchildren Bart Bledsoe (Jenny), Collin Brunner, Grant Brunner (Hannah), Greg Malek (Tracye) and Michaela Kiechler. Bill had seven great-grandchildren Taylor, Bartley, Sabrina, Robert, Jack, Graysen and Brooke.

Papa, as he was called, was the patriarch of his family. He was a giant among men and bigger than life. With his charismatic personality he drew people to him and made them feel important. Because of his deep faith God worked through him to bless those around him. He was a natural teacher and nurturer to his children and grandchildren. The world was a better place because he spent 98 years making it so.

A visitation will be held at 12 p.m. on Tuesday, August 16, 2022, at Hope Community Church, Rocky Mound Road, with a service to follow at 1 p.m. at that church. Rev. Mike Puckett officiating. Burial in Watson Cemetery in Tinsman, AR.

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