John David Watts, Sr., passed away peacefully at Commonwealth Senior Living in Onancock, VA, on May 22, 2020, at the age of 95. Papa Jack, as he was affectionately called, was born in Onancock on April 6, 1925, where he lived until his graduation from Onancock High School. Three days after graduation, Papa Jack relocated to accept a position at the Apprentice School in the Newport News Shipyard. He enlisted in the Merchant Marines and served his country during World War ll. Upon his return to the Eastern Shore, he met the love of his life, Jeanne Clark, affectionately known as Mama Jeanne. Papa Jack and Mama Jeanne, now with two sons, relocated to Yorktown in the late 1950’s. Papa Jack and his family returned to the Eastern Shore in the late 1960’s and settled on Hungars Creek. Papa Jack embarked on a career working on the water in various capacities as a commercial fisherman and, in his later years, as a shellfish sanitation inspector. He inspected facilities on the bayside and seaside of Virginia’s Eastern Shore, developing many lasting friendships and cultivating a reputation of respect along the way. In the early 1980’s, Papa Jack, John D. Watts, Jr., and good family friend William T. Wilkins partnered with Cherrystone Aqua-Farms to pioneer aquaculture on Hungars Creek.
Papa Jack vigorously lived every aspect of his life from family, to work, to his interests and hobbies. He was a 50-year member of the Masonic Lodge (Capeville 107), the Johnstown Methodist Church in Machipongo, and enjoyed the church services held with Commonwealth Senior Living by Pastor Fletcher. Papa Jack was famous for entertaining friends, and anyone who would listen, to tales about his boyhood adventures in Onancock, wartime on the sea with the Merchant Marines, his courtship with Mama Jeanne, his relationships with his sons, and his experiences working and playing on the water over the decades. No matter the topic of conversation, Papa Jack’s intense love of life was apparent. His spirited presence will be missed by many, but certainly not forgotten.
Surviving Papa Jack are his sister Nancy Hartz and her daughters Mary Lareau, Ann Warren and Martha Janney; his son John David Watts, Jr., (Lori Whittaker); granddaughter Jessica Watts; and son Ralph Edwin Watts. Additionally, he is survived by his two “adopted” sons Kevin Ambrose Rafferty and Michael T. Union. As Papa Jack would have said, “Their papers just haven’t come through yet.” Preceding him in death are his parents, Edwin and Madeline Watts; the love of his life, “Mama Jeanne” Watts; and his step-grandson, Keith Strachan.
The family would like to extend their enormous appreciation to the staff at the Hermitage and Commonwealth Senior Living for the unconditional love and care given to Papa Jack through his final hours. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Light House Ministries in Keller, VA. A celebration of Papa Jack’s life will be scheduled for a later date.
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