Veterans highway named in honor of Watts brothers
By Liz Beavers
Tribune Managing Editor
ELK GARDEN - It was a gorgeous, sun-drenched day in the mountaintop community of Elk Garden Wednesday. Quite appropriate for the celebration of five members of one family who had dedicated a combined 107 years to serving their country.
Also very appropriate for the fact that Wednesday was their mother’s 101st birthday.
The Watts Brothers Veterans Memorial Road, a portion of state Route 42 which stretches from the intersection of routes 42 and 46 in Elk Garden to the West Virginia/Maryland state line, was dedicated in honor of brothers Glenn L. Watts Jr., Thomas D. Watts (deceased), Gilbert T. Watts, Daniel R. Watts and Garry M. Watts Sr.
The sons of Frances Watts and the late Glenn Watts Sr., the brothers each “had a patriotic streak and they weren’t too keen on working in the coal mines after seeing what their father had to do,” according to their mother.
The oldest brother, Glenn Jr., was a master sergeant in the Air Force, and served 24 years of active duty from 1954-78, and an additional six years in the reserves. His military career took him to Resolution Island in the Northwest Territories, Iceland and Germany.
Thomas, now deceased, was a senior chief petty officer in the Navy, and served 23 years of active duty from 1956-79, and an additional seven years in the reserves. He served on the USS Wahoo, USS George C. Marshall, and the USS Simon Bolivar, and was also a Navy recruiter for 10 years.
Gilbert was a chief petty officer in the Navy, and served 20 years of active duty from 1960-1980, with an additional 10 years in the reserves. He spent three years as a drill commander, and served aboard the USS Forrestal, USS Neosha, USS Denebola, USS Macdonough, and USS Shenandoah.
Daniel was a sergeant in the Army, and served six years of active duty from 1962-68, as well as two years in the reserves. His service included tours of duty in South Korea and Germany.
Gary was also a sergeant in the Army, and served 2 1/2 years of active duty from 1966-69, with an additional 6 1/2 years in the reserves. His service included 21 months of combat duty in Vietnam.
“The family should be very proud of them” emcee Donna Burdock said, adding, “We just want to thank them for their service.”
“Next to serving one’s God, there is nothing more noble that serving your country,” speaker Frank Roleff said. “This family, these brothers, epitomize the American spirit to serve.”
Delegates John Paul Hott and Ruth Rowan were also present for the program, with Hott explaining that he represents the Elk Garden area, where the Watts family is from, while Rowan represents Fort Ashby, where one of the brothers currently lives.
“It is a great privilege and an honor to stand before you here today,” Hott said.
In addition to the resolution naming the road in their honor, Hott also read a citation from the West Virginia House of Delegates recognizing Frances Watts on her 101st birthday.
The sign naming the highway was then unveiled by grandchildren of the brothers.