Last Updated: Wednesday - 01/05/2011
December 24, 2001
Watson organized Edmonton papal visit
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON — Walter Roland "Roy" Watson, top organizer of the 1984 visit of Pope John Paul to Edmonton, died Friday, Dec. 14 at the age of 86.
Watson is well remembered as a leader both in Edmonton's civic and Catholic communities.
He was passionate about politics, directed many election campaigns and was on the executive of the Progressive Conservative associations of Alberta and Canada, and was on the board of Winnifred Stewart Association.
"He was a wonderful person, a wonderful Catholic, a great leader," retired Archbishop Joseph MacNeil told the WCR.
When it was announced the pope would visit Edmonton in 1984, the archdiocese began looking for "someone who would be a good leader, a good Catholic . . . recognized in the Catholic community and the community at large."
"His name kept coming up," said MacNeil. "He was a good organizer, a good delegator and he was able to involve the people of the community."
MacNeil remembered that whatever problems they encountered during the preparation, Watson "seemed to know the right persons who would be able to help."
A few days before the pope arrived, Edmonton was hit by a snowstorm. The site for the papal Mass was filled with water and mud.
"We had no idea how we would be able to resolve it," shared MacNeil.
Upon consultation, they decided to bring in hundreds of truckloads of sawdust and shavings from pulp mills.
Watson arranged for the materials they needed from the pulp mills in northern Alberta.
"It was ideal and when the pope came, there was no evidence whatsoever that it was filled with mud," MacNeil said.
"It was (Watson's) contacts and his ability to get people to resolve problems that really helped us."
As many as 150,000 people attended the Mass held north of Edmonton in a farmer's field at Namao in September 1984.
Aside from organizing the pope's visit, Watson served as chair of the WCR board of directors in 1975-76 and as a board member of Newman College and St. Joseph Seminary Foundation from 1992-1999.
He had been a parishioner of St. Andrew since about 1949 and was very involved in construction of the present church.
Watson had a long and distinguished career in the insurance industry.
Born in Winnipeg in 1915, Watson and his wife, Betty, were married in 1941 and moved to Edmonton in 1949.
The couple, who recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary was blessed with eight children, 15 grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.
A funeral was celebrated at St. Andrew's Church Dec. 19, which was followed by interment at Holy Cross Cemetery.
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