Robert Alexander Watson

  • Born: September 11, 1928
  • Died: July 12, 2020
  • Location: Concord, Massachusetts

Concord Funeral Home

Director - Glenn D. Burlamachi, CFSP
74 Belknap St.
Concord, MA 01742
Tel. (978) 369-3388

Tribute & Message From The Family

Loving Husband, Father, and Grandfather

Longtime Concord resident Robert A. Watson, age 91, died on July 12, 2020 after a short illness. He was the husband of the late Patricia Pelley Watson, with whom he shared a 67-year marriage.

Born in Lynn, Massachusetts in 1928 to Thomas and Margaret Watson, Robert was the youngest of six children. Both of his parents were born in Cromarty, Scotland. They died before Robert was 10 and one of his sisters became his legal guardian and raised him. A graduate of Lynn Classical High, he then attended Salem State University and Tufts University, receiving his graduate degree there. Later, he completed the program at the Harvard Negotiation Project under the teaching of the late Roger Fisher.

Robert's professional career began as a high school math teacher in Lynn and Saugus. Subsequently, he became the youngest school principal in the state in Rockland. He then became the principal of the new Comstock School in Wilton, Connecticut.

In 1958 Robert returned to Massachusetts to become the principal of the just-built Ripley and Willard schools in Concord. He was then elected Assistant Superintendent of Schools for the City of Beverly, where he spent four years. In his third year there, he was appointed to lead the trade/vocational high school, which he did while also performing his Assistant Superintendent duties. He took over the vocational school at a time when the student body had become alienated by the previous leadership of the school, and he worked hard to respect the students and gain their respect and cooperation in return. It was one of the proudest moments of his career when, at the end of the school year, the students presented him with the gift of a used automobile that they had salvaged and refurbished just for him. He was deeply touched by their gesture, and he drove that car for two years.

In 1965 Robert was recruited to be the Superintendent of Schools of the Tantasqua Regional School District, where he stayed for three years. After that, he was hired to be the Director of the Bureau of Curriculum Innovation for the State of Massachusetts. He worked in Boston with the Department of Education for eleven years administering the national Elementary and Secondary Education Act that had just been passed by Congress.

Robert completed his career with six years as the Superintendent of Schools in Somerville. Coming into that job at a somewhat troubled time in the city, he took great pride in working with others to help to bring new leadership and reforms to a whole range of problems. He retired in 1988.

An athlete his entire life, Robert loved sports and competition. He was an all-star high school baseball player and the captain of his college team. He also excelled in ice hockey, and was a member of a New England championship team. He played hockey in rinks until he was 60 years old, saying after that that he was retiring to "only pond hockey."

He was unbeatable in horseshoes, ping pong, and pool. When asked how he became so proficient in billiards, he'd refer to the old saw about having enjoyed "a misspent youth." He was also a certified swimming instructor and life guard, and he certified others who were becoming life guards. He was a licensed, international basketball referee, passing his first floor-test at the old Boston Garden.

Over the years, Robert was heavily involved in volunteer and service work. He served on several town committees, taught math and English to adults – many of them immigrants – in a GED program, and was a fund-raiser for the Heart Association. He also participated in committees of the Trinitarian Congregational Church in Concord.

Robert was an exceptional intellect, and he read and wrote constantly. His best character traits were an openness to others, a belief in egalitarianism, and an educator's conviction that all people have an unlimited potential within them to learn and grow. In his last years, he wrote a short book of stories of men and women – blacks and whites – who had led outstanding or unusual lives, and so had inspired many others.

Robert is survived by his son Brian, of Swampscott, and his daughter, Jennifer, of Arlington, and his grandchildren, Nicholas, of San Jose, CA, and John, of Alexandria, VA.

Due to COVID 19 restrictions, Robert will be laid to rest privately at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord. A memorial service will be held in the Trinitarian Congregational Church in 2021.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to:

Trinitarian Congregational Church
54 Walden Street
Concord, MA 01742

Condolence & Memory Journal

It was an honor and my good fortune to have worked for Bob at the Massachusetts Department of Education and to count him among my friends for over fifty years. Bob was a top notch educator and a champion for children of all ages and circumstances, further, he was a man to admire and to emulate. As an administrator he was a role model for me and his intellect and people skills, combined with a wonderful sense of humor, made him the most effective of leaders. One aspired never to let Bob down on any task, duty or assignment. In addition, he was the most well-read person I have ever met and his welcoming heart and concern for others was the hallmark of his life. Bob, indeed, was on the side of the angels and the world has been impoverished with his passing.

Janet and I extend our deepest sympathy to Jennifer and Brian and their families and we hope that warm thoughts and memories of their father sustain them all their days.

Posted by John Neal - ALPINE, NY - friend   September 24, 2020

When I first began to teach at Concord High School, I became aware of Bob Watson as the dynamic principal of the new Ripley School, and thereafter as he worked for the state of MA Education Department and then as superintendent of Somerville schools. With each move, he took on great responsibilities and enthusiastically embraced Restorative Justice work in retirement. Bob was pleasant and upbeat each time we met him. His published account of selling Christmas trees as a kid is so well written, a classic for that season. It was a pleasure to know Bob. I send my sympathy to his family.

Posted by John Langan - Concord, MA - acquaintance   August 09, 2020

Bob was a longtime close friend and neighbor. We shared many experiences together from Ping-pong to golf as well as a mutual soft spot for Somerville, MA. His humor and vast knowledge was enjoyed by many. It was his kind heart that drew all to him. Bob will be missed greatly.

Posted by Bill and Bea Haynes - Concord, MA - Friend   August 05, 2020

Bob was a special friend to our daughters, with whom he shared magic tricks and wonderful stories of his youth! He always remembered their names, asked them questions about school and other interests, and unfailingly listened to their answers. What a very special man - we will miss him dearly at the TriCon coffee hours!

Posted by Shirley and Fred Huettig - Sudbury, MA - Family Friend   August 04, 2020

Bob was such a warm and good-hearted person who was beloved by everyone at Debra’s in Concord. He would sit at the communal table and strike up friendly conversation with whoever was there that day. He was so genuinely interested in learning about others’ lives and experiences. People were always energized and uplifted after chatting with Bob. We will all miss him greatly, he was such a kind soul.

Posted by Dave Close - Friend   July 30, 2020

Dear Brian and Jennifer,
Your father, Bob, has been our friend since the 70s--first as audience enjoyers (with your mother, Pat) of our Concord Orchestra concerts, then through Tricon church, then in our Book Group, and then overall as good friends. We still miss your mother and will miss Bob for a long time ahead. Please give our love to Nicolas and John.
Grant and Betsy Anderson

Posted by Grant and Betsy Anderson - Friend   July 26, 2020

As the head of Somerville's Youth Program, I worked with Bob in his capacity as Superintendent of Somerville Schools and I also got to know him because he and I were both members of the Somerville YMCA Health Club. Bob became Somerville Superintend of Schools at a time when the system was in desperate need of new leadership. He brought with him the skills, passion, and commitment to working collaboratively with others for the best results which was exactly what was needed. So many administrators, teachers, and students benefited from his work. But with all of his sophistication and professional achievements, the thing that stands out so clearly to me about Bob is that he was a really, really nice person. I enjoyed working with him and the many conversations we had at the YMCA. I am sure that he will be deeply missed by everyone who had the pleasure to have known him.

Posted by Stanley Polllack - Somerville, MA   July 24, 2020

I was Mr . Watsons mailman for years. He was such a fine gentleman,who always had a kind word. His smile was infectious and always there. When he moved,he would drive by sometimes and we would chat awhile,and I was amazed at his energy. He would drop into the Post Office and say hello to my wife Lisa,and he would send his regards .Concord was a better place because of him and he will be missed,but not forgotten.

Posted by David Dente - Wakefield, MA   July 20, 2020

Bob and Pat were long time family friends, neighbors and fellow members of TriCon. Bob had a gift for nurturing and recognizing hidden talents and encouraging young people. His humor, kind and gentle nature, conversations and jokes will be missed. He was one of a kind and the world needs more like him. His presence and compassion will be missed.

Posted by Reverend Nancy Haynes - Concord, MA - Family Friend   July 19, 2020

Bob contribute to the Somerville School System as Superintendent was key to providing much needed leadership. I was fortunate to be the Chairman of the Somerville School Board when Bob came onboard. His positive can do attitude, his always smiling and forward thinking and his ability to bring different points of view into his decision making process was key to his (and our) success. After Bob retired from the Somerville School System he stayed very involved and was an ever present friend. to many in the city. My condolence to the family and thank you for sharing a very caring person with us.

John Buonomo,
1982, Chairman
Somerville School Board

Posted by John Buonomo - Newton, MA   July 17, 2020

Bob was a sweet, warm and wonderful friend. He was kind and generous, and loved everyone, especially young people and he always had a story to tell. He recently took a painting that Al Filipov made for him and gave it to my grandson, Alex...telling him that it was now his to keep. We were all blessed to have him in our lives.

Posted by Loretta Filipov - Wenham, MA - Friend   July 17, 2020

Having lived next door to Bob and his wife Pat, our family will miss Bob dearly. Bob would share many stories, magic tricks, jokes and his life's experiences with us. Bob always was always very positive and always noted the best traits in people. Even through hard times, Bob kept his head up high and forged ahead. May he and Pat reunite. Rest in peace Bob.

Posted by Michael Karman - Concord, MA - Neighbor   July 15, 2020

I had many fine conversations with Bob. As a choir member I often saw him after church. He was a delight to be with. He will be missed very much. My heartfelt condolences to you all.

Posted by Pat Bentley - Concord, MA - Friend   July 15, 2020

We were the fortunate family to have Bob as our next door neighbor and he was an extraordinary human being. Bob always invested in his neighbor and was such a kind and gentle soul.We will always remember how nice he was to our four children. Once they were old enough he would hire them to help with jobs around the house and was always wonderful to work for. Bob was incredibly generous and had so many fantastic stories to share. We will always remember Bobs beautiful smiling face.
peace and love to you in deepest sympathy,
The Karman Family (Michael, Linda, Briana, Ty, Dante and Sean)

Posted by Linda Karman - conncord, MA - Neighbor   July 14, 2020

Bob was a lovely person to everyone he met. He made the world a better place.

Posted by Joan Neisser - Acquaintance   July 14, 2020

Dear Brian and Jennifer and your families,
We met Bob through our Book Group, and were honored to have known him. We loved his gentle good humor, his kindness and thoughtfulness, and his intelligence and insightful comments. He was a terrific guy and we miss him dearly.
Carol Bowen and Vic Bass

Posted by Carol Bowen & Vic Bass - Concord, MA - Friend   July 13, 2020

Family Album