Physician, husband, father, grandfather, friend, world traveller, conversationalist, tennis player, paddler, sailor, lover of singing and Scottish dancing, extrovert, feminist, LGBTQ+ ally, trader of jokes and stories, messy housemate, eccentric Irishman.
Alan Watson completed his “vertical take-off” on January 12, 2021 with his wife Cherry by his side, holding his hand.
He was blessed to have made his living and serve his community in a vocation he truly loved. An early stay in hospital had cemented a childhood goal to become a doctor. Alan enjoyed everything about medicine: the intellectual challenge of sleuthing out the diagnosis for an obscure skin condition, teaching others, conferring with colleagues and especially interacting with patients from the broadest possible cross-section of society.
Alan brought an incredible work ethic, integrity, compassion, attention to detail and conscientiousness to his work. He lived by the Biblical edict to give “good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over….” His non-judgemental nature and thoroughness resulted in top-notch care for his patients.
Alan often expressed gratitude for his full life. “I’ve had a career I’ve loved, a wonderful wife and a happy marriage, three successful and well-adjusted children. I’ve travelled the world. I’ve done every bloody thing!”
Alan is survived by Cherry, his wife of 58 years, his three children Susan (Ian), John (Jane) and Simon (Val), and seven grandchildren, Alec, Thomas, Hugh, Madeleine, Blythe, Quinn and Mikaila. Alan was predeceased by his parents Alec and Katherine and brothers James and Alec.
Alan Ferrier Watson was born on November 4th, 1933 in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh State in Northern India, the middle son of three boys born to Katherine (nee Johnston) and Alec Watson. His father was a captain in the British Army during the time of the Raj and his mother was a well-educated country girl and later an administrator.
Tragedy struck early in Alan’s life when his father died in a sailing accident in India when he was only five-years-old. The family, who was back in Ireland, received the news by telegram. His mother Katherine was pregnant with his younger brother Alec. Katherine rose to the challenge of being a single parent, with the support of extended family, her army widow’s pension and her own steely resolve. She and her sons moved into a house called “Aylesbury” with her twice-widowed mother-in-law, Maude Kerwin, and her husband’s half-brother Reg from Maude’s second marriage.
Alan instantly became the man of the family. His older brother James, who likely lived with undiagnosed Asperger syndrome, was unable to assume this mantle. A school master once accused young Alan of lying about the tasks he was entrusted with, incredulous that a child of 6 or 7 would be sent 2 or 3 miles on a bike to cash cheques, mail parcels and make purchases.
Alan attended the Avoca School and Aravon School in Blackrock, Dublin. He often quoted wisdom from one of the Aravon masters, Boss Craig, to his children: “You may BE greedy, but try not to look it!”
At age 13 Alan moved to England to attend the prestigious Wellington College boarding school on a bursary for sons of British officers who had died while on active duty. He was placed in a dorm where extra support was given to boys who had lost their fathers. Alan took advantage of every educational opportunity this outstanding schooling provided for him, laying the groundwork for his academic success at medical school. He also made lifelong friends, including Colin Lindsay, Kiffer Culley, Michael Hyde and Michael Kilroy.
After Wellington College, Alan was accepted by Trinity College Dublin to study medicine and moved back in with his mother, younger brother Alec and a penniless uncle and father figure “Uncle A”. Summers were spent earning university funds on crews blasting hydroelectric tunnels in Scotland and making more friends.
At age 23, Alan “fooled the examiners” and became a fully qualified physician. During a subsequent residency in obstetrics, he would often attend home births in Dublin slums, sending an older sibling out to buy a copy of the freshly printed Irish Times to provide what might be the only sterile surface in an impoverished home.
In 1961, looking like a young Sean Connery, Alan set off on a life of adventure sailing around the world as a ship’s doctor, first on the S.S. Orsova with the P & O Orient Line and then the RMMV Stirling Castle with the Union Castle Line. It was on his first voyage with this new company that Alan met his wife-to-be of nearly 60 years, Cherry. His own words were, “I fell totally in love with the beautiful ship’s nurse.” This was the beginning of a lifelong crush and partnership, both in medicine and in raising a family.
After their marriage in 1962, Alan and Cherry moved to Australia, where their children Susan, John and Simon were born. Alan set up a family practice, but found time to enjoy everything this new country had to offer: beaches, sailing, waterskiing, BBQs and swimming pools. He indulged his cultural interests in Scottish dancing and joined the chorus of a community production of the Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan.
In 1972, Alan and Cherry were on the move again, this time to Canada, settling in Waterloo, Ontario. Shifting politics in Australia and medical school friends had encouraged the move. Alan enjoyed another 18 years of family practice. In 1990, he and Cherry spent a sabbatical year in Cardiff, Wales. Alan earned a Diploma in Dermatology – a lifelong interest.
Alan made the most of everything Canada had to offer, enjoying skiing during the winters and canoeing, sailing and camping during the summer. For several summers he ran a hobby business, Rainbow Canoe Trips. This endeavour established a valued friendship with the instructor he hired, “Mad Monsieur” (Michel Lessard).
Alan was formally recognized as a “Notable Physician” by his local peers. After his retirement in 2015, he was awarded the status of “Physician Emeritus” by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons.
Alan’s five-year journey with Alzheimer’s and dementia was a difficult and poignant one both for Alan and his loved ones. His family wishes to express their gratitude for the love and support of friends and the excellent care that Alan received from Dr. Kathleen Bedrosian and all the staff at the following facilities: St. Joseph’s overnight respite program (Guelph); the Waterloo Recreation Centre Seniors’ Day Program; Emma’s Neighbourhood at Riverside Glen (Guelph); and Dickson House in Columbia Forest LTC (Waterloo). In particular, the family would like to acknowledge the special care he received from Arvin Benito, Gordana, Rose, Sandra and Anna. Alan was spared from isolation and loneliness during the pandemic through the loving one-on-one support he received from private caregivers Jose Garnica, Kajal Rupani, Simerjit Dhariwal and Natalie Mullings.
In an effort to honour Alan’s Irish roots and their own need to grieve, the family had his body brought home for two days. He was laid out on the dining room table and his wife Cherry, children and grandchildren gathered around for a masked, physically-distanced, COVID-compliant wake. Alan’s youngest son, Simon, and grandchildren Quinn and Mikaila, joined in via zoom from Australia.
Alan’s funeral took place at St. John’s Anglican Church, Kitchener on Thursday, January 14th, 2021. A recording of the service is available for viewing for the next few weeks at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_pqZRh-TGE
Condolences can be emailed directly to the family at firstname.lastname@example.org
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Alan’s name to Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region.