Cleal Watt’s Twilight of Sampson

Watts a Texas family, the kind that gave Texas the name sake we enjoy here today. stories legends are made of. To be acknowledged & remembered…. this is Cleal II a friend  

If Cleal could face the end of his days in the manor in which he did I figured I could face some of my own fears in his memory. I flipantly said to him once “only way I would reead in front of a crowd is over your dead body”. Promise he ask? … I did not answer aloud but whispered under my breath you know i will. 

Reading in front of a group of people is something that has haunted me since I was in the second grade. Mindful of Cleal’s can do spirit, I mustered the courage to ask to speak at his funeral. I stammered and stuttered through it, in memory of the man, in honor of a family I have grown to love, and for my own sake for all the things I wanted to say but never did or better to do what i said even if it was only a whisper no one heard.

Lasting words Cleal

I am but a stranger by time’s standards; my time with him was little. I had the rare privilege of peeking in on a life in the twilight of years when most pay them no mind; failing to see the value.  As I paused and made an effort to take note, I was set back by the legends of this man: stories of raw strength, told by men of character and rapport; told by men large in statue, so large in fact, it made the stories they told of him even more far fetched, as if they were small by comparison.
Yes, with the raw strength came also a childlike side, the one where every time you went over a bridge he would comment about the ramp compaction. “Went up” or “Fell off,” he would say. Once in a while he would say “That was pretty good. He must have known what he was doing!”  To many, it would seem silly. But if you listened in the moment, he could not only feel the road beneath but he could see right blame through it. His mind’s eye knew no barriers. What a joy to be around some one who was so learned, not meaning what he knew, but how he went about understanding, and how that just made him want to know all the more. Yes, he had a great mind to be sure, rivaled only by a boyish nature that would peer at you from behind those eyes so wide open. Often, that is all you had to go on.  He was so hard of hearing; it embarrassed him to ask you to repeat yourself. I am glad he finally got comfortable enough to make me say it twice. That was a sign of acceptance; the best part was, it was also how I got to know him better.
What a sense of humor and adventure!  Even the final weeks when I saw him last, he never gave up his life.  We were making plans we both knew had passed us by, but in our minds we could go there.  And so we did. You know, in reflection, if the Lord was willing, we would have done them too.  There was no lack of sincerity. It was that very same sincerity which allowed us to make such plans, plans that we both knew in another life and another time how it would have been. Only one word describes a man who lives with such passion: he was truly an enthusiast. It was in that spirit we agreed where he was going. I would follow and we would begin anew there.
Now for all that, I would be remiss if I did not include this gentle giant of a man. It is written in the Bible, “the desire of a man is his kindness.”  I could speak of how he treated me first hand. I could raise the bar and talk about how it was to be a guest in his home. I could point to the fruit of his loins and see the works of his life as each member of his family has touched me. All these things I could say, but none humbled me more than the way he treated his wife, Mitzi. We could talk about the way he helped her when I came by to eat, or the special way they looked at each other, enough to give a fellow like me hope you know…. But most telling was the extra little step he had in his shuffle when he was doing something for her. This spoke volumes to me and moved me in ways that have their effect on me day in and day out.
So I ask you today to allow me this moment of selfishness as I speak for my own sake those things we never spoke, he and I. Seldom, if never a word, more was said with a glance.  And you know it was enough that we just held it as an understanding between us. Just as we knew time was not on our side, but time was a privilege we were afforded to share.

For those who live; death is no stranger, but even death is over come by the truth to those who choose life over death.
Cleal Watts, yes, I will miss him.  But not nearly as much as I would had we never met.
God’s speed Cleal Watts

At the conclusion of my reading it was clear i was but one of a long list of people that felt the same. Later after we had paid our respects something happened. I began to sense Cleal as if he was amoung us. I made some new friends that day, friends that that felt like old friends only I hardly knew their names. Proof enough to me there is life after death, I could see him in their eyes. Like Sampson a warrior, he took with him more in his death than he slew in his life. So also he slew mine own enemy’s, fears tethered to the whisper of a promise.   

Never underestimate the effect you have. As for the effective, their effect continues.

Richard Carey, a friend… 

Cleal Watts and son with SkyLab Commander

Cleal Watts & Son with Skylab Commander

Clael Watts and the SR-71

Cleal Watts with the SR-71 “Blackbird”

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1 Comment

  1. I also loved this man, Mr. Watts was a friend and mentor for over 45 years to me.


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