Serviceman remembered for fatherly love

Published 7:00 am Saturday, May 30, 2015



This story is part of the series recognizing Military Appreciation Month.

Over the years, brave men and women have sacrificed their lives for this country, while others have lived to tell their stories. Former U.S. Navy Captain Dr. Eugene A. Watkins Sr. called Picayune his home before passing away on May 21 at 91-years-old. Throughout his life, Watkins honorably served his country in three wars. While Watkins will always be remembered as a U.S. veteran, his inspiring story lives on through his son Al Watkins.

“He was my best friend, the best man at my wedding, my guiding light along with Jesus, a great leader and my hero,” Al said.

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Watkins served 31 years in the U.S Navy. He flew dive bombers off the USS Yorktown during World War II before taking a break to pursue an education in dentistry. At the start of the Korean War, Watkins practiced general dentistry in Japan.

“From the stories he’s told me, I believe he worked on many U.S. servicemen there,” Al said.

While many men were drafted during the Vietnam War to fill vacant positions in the armed forces, Watkins volunteered to fight and served in the Third Marine Division, Al said.

During his service, Watkins earned a Bronze Star Medal with Combat V, which is awarded to service men and women for their heroic achievement or service in a combat zone.  He also received a Presidential Unit Citation with two stars for his service in Vietnam, Al said.

Watkins personal life was just as successful as his Navy career. He married his wife Mary Elizabeth Watkins and they raised their four children together in Picayune. When Watkins became a Navy captain, he and his family saw many places.

“I was a Navy brat growing up. We were raised all over the world,” Al said.

While the family lived in places like Japan and Washington D.C., Al said his father always considered his birthplace, Picayune, his home.

Al credits his father for encouraging him to be a great man.

“I never could grow my hair long and I had to fit some image in his mind of what an outstanding young man was. But if it wasn’t for my dad, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today,” Al said.

Al currently works at NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center as the general manager for NASA Laboratory Services.

“My father loved the Navy and military service. He was always very proud of his service,” Al said.

Watkins was preceded in death by his wife, Mary Elizabeth Booth Watkins; parents, Lonnie Luke Watkins and Fannie Mae Morrison Watkins; daughter, Charlotte Kay Watkins Stockstill; son, David William Watkins; 11 brothers and sisters.

Watkins is survived by his daughter, Lyndal W. Fillingame and husband Sedgie L.; son, Eugene and wife Jan; grandchildren, Anneliese F. Varnado and husband Christopher, Jessica L. Watkins, Meagan A. Watkins, Sarah S. Langford and husband Michael, Sam L. Stockstill; great grandchildren, Ashton, Savannah, Quinton and Wyatt, according to the obituary from McDonald Funeral Home.

Friday, family and friends gathered at the White Chapel Church of God in Carriere for a military funeral service honoring the late Watkins.

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