More than 35 years ago, my father, Dick Cosgrove, wrote an article for the Sunday Dispatch entitled “Thoughts on William A. Watson from a Close and Faithful Friend.” Bill Watson, owner of the Dispatch and its first publisher died in 1977 but the friendship he and my dad shared began decades earlier when they both worked for the Times Leader.
When the Dispatch was founded in 1947, Bill Watson made sure he had dad at his side, and a journalistic team which changed the news business and was a major force in the growth and development of Greater Pittston was formed.
Twenty years ago, Bill’s son, William A. Watson, Jr., also passed away. “Pidge,” as he was known to just about everyone, had been a part of the Dispatch staff from shortly after its inception, and assumed its leadership when his father died. Again, dad was summoned to eulogize in writing another of this family’s great journalists, and another of his closest friends.
It is hard to grasp that now a member of the third generation of Watsons has passed, one who also took charge of the Sunday Dispatch and guided it through difficult times in the newspaper business only to see it continue to thrive as the ever present voice of an evolving and pride-filled community. On Saturday, June 15, John “Chick” Watson died in Seattle, Washington, a place where he lived, but not really his “home.” That term could only apply to one place - Pittston, PA. Every part of Chick’s life centered on the people of Greater Pittston, their hopes, their dreams, their stories. And they had no greater advocate than Chick.
He was a master craftsman with the pen. In my dad’s long newspaper career, he had met some of the best writers our area has ever produced, and he was always clear that Chick Watson was among them.
Chick began his career working at the Dispatch, first for his grandfather, then his father, and then assumed the leadership of the family that the Dispatch staff would always be. From the beginning, he sharpened his keen interest in politics and wasn’t afraid to use the strong voice of the Dispatch to express his support for, or dismay at someone’s public actions. When he was on your side, you had no more loyal a supporter. But when you went astray, you had no more fierce a critic.
But even then, Chick’s animosity was short lived. His many gifts were evident, but none more so than his swift willingness to forgive. People with whom he had tough debates usually, at some point, became his friend, sometimes even the best of friends. He always looked at the redeeming qualities of a person, and in the end, gave everyone the benefit of every doubt.
As an adult I watched him navigate the running of a weekly newspaper while keeping his political commentary informed and sharp, but some of my best memories of Chick are when we were little boys, running and playing around the old Dispatch offices on Dock Street in downtown Pittston with him and his brother Bill. There were no OSHA regulations to contend with then, so we could play hide and seek amidst one-ton rolls of newsprint, or scoop up lead shavings from the pressman’s plates, or mischievously rearrange the letters on a page layouts set for the next Sunday’s edition.
Chick was the same then as he was in adulthood — carefree, adventurous, a little daring, but always fun, and always a good friend. I will cherish my friendship with Chick as will the people of Greater Pittston. We have lost a great deal, but he leaves an unmatched legacy of faith in his community.
Chick indeed had faith in Pittston, in its people and its future. He would be delighted to see the progress a young generation of leaders has made in developing a downtown area filled with beauty and commerce and pride. I dare say, none of that would have happened had there not been a Chick Watson to say that he believed in Greater Pittston, and that we should as well.
The night before he died, Pittston celebrated its second “Second Friday” event of the season. On that beautiful evening, people filled the downtown, listening to the music, looking at the art displays, and catching up with one another after a long, slow climb out of winter. I cannot help but see such an event, and the many more to come, as a tribute to Chick Watson, someone who never gave up on the place he always called “home.”