Mary was born on 15 February 1934, in Enderlin ND. The only child of Sigvart J. Hagen, a postmaster on the Soo Line Railroad and Viola H. Hagen, an elementary school teacher. She was baptized and confirmed at First Lutheran Church in Enderlin and grew up attending Enderlin Public School, where her mother taught. During her high school years, she was active in her high school’s marching band, playing alto saxophone. Mary spent her summers at the family cabin on Lake Lida, Pelican Rapids MN, playing with her Dufty cousins, children of Cora and Jay Dufty, her maternal aunt.
A graduate of North Dakota Agriculture College (NDAC, now North Dakota State University) with a baccalaureate degree in Home Economics, Mary pledged and was active in the NDAC Kappa Alpha Theta chapter, living in the sorority house after her freshman year, and serving as President during her junior year. Her work within the NDAC Greek system introduced her to members of various campus groups, leading her to meet Jerome (Jerry) A. Watson, a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity, in 1954. Jerry was in the NDAC ROTC program and Mary was there when he received his Air Force commission following his graduation.
On 13 May 1956, Mary and Jerry were married at Mary’s home church, First Lutheran, in Enderlin, and following Mary’s college graduation later that month, they relocated to Jerry’s first assignment in Harlingen TX. Their oldest daughter, Randi, was born there in 1957 and shortly after, came moves in swift succession to Sacramento CA, as Jerry completed his Air Force schooling and then Salina KS for his first assignment, where Mary taught school.
In 1959, Jerry separated from the Air Force and the couple relocated to Lubbock TX, where Jerry worked for the Oliver Tractor Corporation and then transferred to Charles City IA, where their second daughter, Kerry, was born. Their respite from military life was cut short though when Jerry as recalled to the Air Force in 1962, and the couple and two daughters moved back to California, and then on to Biloxi MS, Montgomery AL, and Denver CO. In 1966, Mary and the girls moved back to Enderlin ND and lived with Mary’s parents while Jerry spent 13 months on an isolated tour. During that year, and as often as possible during their moves, Mary taught school. Upon his return, the family moved to Ipswich, Queensland, Australia, where in 1968, their youngest child, Andrew, was born. When the now completed family returned to the US in 1972, they moved to Ogden UT, where after a few years, they left Randi to begin her university studies, when they moved onto Colorado Springs CO, where they left Kerry to begin her college studies, and finally to Bellville IL. Wherever the family went, Mary always took great care in making a beautiful and comfortable home.
In 1983, Jerry retired from the Air Force after 24 years of service, and began his second career with RCA working with the US Navy, developing the radar systems for the Aegis class destroyers, which brought the family to Medford NJ. For the first time since their marriage, the couple put down roots – Mary became active in community organizations in the area, including the Questors Preservation and the various quilting groups. During this time, Mary’s parents were experiencing failing health and came to live with Mary and Jerry in their home in Medford, where they remained until their deaths. Their daughters were married and their first grandchildren were born. Their youngest child, Andrew, began his university studies in 1986, and Mary & Jerry officially became “empty nesters”. Mary enjoyed gardening and delighted in flowers and Jerry always helped maintain their yard full of blooms for her enjoyment.
Having been bitten by the travel bug during their military service, Mary and Jerry enjoyed travelling together, and they saw so much more of the world. Over the next 20 years, they visited Germany, Greece, France, Spain, Morocco, Switzerland, Italy, Finland, Russia, Denmark, Belgium, Holland, South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Egypt, Mexico, Ecuador, Costa Rica (where Mary broke her foot), Peru, and Argentina. They sailed through the Panama Canal and around Cape Horn, visiting Tierra del Fuego, and the Falkland Islands, as well as the islands of the Caribbean, and took river cruises down the Rhine, Danube, Main and Seine.
Mary lost her almost 5-year battle with cancer on 29 June 2020. She is survived by her husband of 64 years, Jerry Watson, her three children and their spouses, Thomas & Randi (Watson) Rutan of Old Bridge NJ, J. Robert & Kerry (Watson) Buchs of Cherry Hill NJ and Andrew & Dawn Watson of West Chester PA, nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
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