Our Dearest Richard
There is and will never be another person like Richard. His indelible mark on this world was created by his kindheartedness, generosity, compassion, fierce intelligence and boundless love for his three daughters. A silly and irreverent soul, he led his household in adventures, dance parties, cuddles, deep thoughts, reflection and affection. Despite his notable successes in life, he was down to earth and able to create strong connections and understanding among all types of people. He will forever be remembered as ‘one of the greats’ among those fortunate to know and love him.
Richard Bailey Watkins, Jr. was born on November 1, 1954 to Richard and Betsy Watkins and grew up alongside big sister Beverly in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He strongly admired his parents for the love they instilled in their home and the kindness they imparted to their community. Betsy was a nursing director of fundamentals at Erlanger Hospital’s School of Nursing and Richard Sr. was a skilled machinist for DuPont. As a young child, Richard displayed a passion for animals, athleticism and a love for learning-- three things that would define his adult years.
Known as the ‘Hixson Flash,’ Richard ran track and played football in high school and college. A natural-born leader gifted with sociability and charm, Richard was class president of Hixson High School and named to the ‘Who’s Who of Tennessee’ his senior year. He attended the University of Tennessee, College of Charleston and served in the United States Airforce before settling down to start a family and his business. Richard has lived all around the United States including Tennessee, Maryland, Pennsylvania, California, Arizona, North Carolina, South Carolina, and more.
from Richard's sister, Beverly:
We grew up happy and always feeling loved. Mom and dad were our biggest cheering team. That is probably where he grew up knowing how important it is to be accepted and loved for who you are. Rick and I were so different, he the smart, charismatic one and me, the shy and quiet one-- but no matter what we always felt loved.
One of my most vivid memories of growing up was probably because it was repeated annually! The “Watkins Family “ took a yearly pilgrimage to the Florida beaches. Our dad always made it an adventure. We had not been settled in for long and within 24 hours Rick had made friends with every child in the complex and had friends to play with all week! It made me so mad! He was like my dad....a people person. I look back now (less shy) and admire that quality in him.
The contributions and influence that Richard had on the nuclear power industry, his clients, and the WD family cannot be measured and will not be forgotten.
from WD's Co-Founder, Greg Duffy:
My friend of 35 years, a business partner of 27 years, and co-founder of WD Associates Inc, Richard Watkins, passed away yesterday. Although not completely unexpected due to medical issues in recent years, it is still a shock to lose someone so close and influential in your life. Known as the Hixon Flash in high school (Hixon, TN), Richard was gifted both athletically and intellectually. When he came to work at Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station (PBAPS), I was the site lead for General Physics. He had an immediate positive impact on both the client’s and our organization. We quickly became friends and started doing things together away from work. When I transferred to another plant, I recommended him as my replacement and the company accepted that recommendation. While I was gone, he was promoted again and when my contract at the other facility ended, he offered me a position working for him back at PBAPS. As a team, we were able to grow the organization into one of the largest in the company. When the owner of General Physics sold the company and the new management team tried to implement policies that negatively impacted employees, our objections resulted in position changes that neither of us were satisfied with. Richard convinced me that we should start a company and that we could compete with our current employer. Looking back, it really was a crazy idea, but, 27 years later, we are still in operation under the same name. Once we started WD, we became even closer, living only 2 miles apart. At work we were able to manage the good times and bad. In our personal lives, we were there to celebrate the successes and provide support during troubled times. Richard is survived by three beautiful daughters that he loved dearly. Each one was very special to him in their own way. Richard was a good man, hard worker, great friend, and a loving father. He will be missed.
My dad made growing up in the “Watkins residence” all about unconditional love. Our home was a safe place full of silliness, affection, good music, dance parties, cherished animals, lazing about the pool, Sunday breakfast and friends. To quote a dear friend “Mr. Richard was a vibe”. And he was. The chillest of the chill. The most loving and devoted father. He knew no stranger. He gave so selflessly, wanting nothing in return. He was the man who would fund an animal shelter rescue without telling anyone or find a way to pay a friend’s medical expense and never speak of it again. His salt of the earth way of living matched with his wildly intelligent mind (we’re talking photographic memory) was a remarkable paradox. It was one of the things most admired by many lucky enough to know him on that level.
I’d define parenting style as “hands-off but love always on”. He believed deeply in us girls and filled us with so much love. He gave me and my sisters his unwavering devotion, celebrating our differences. He didn’t lead with rules, but rather an expectation that us girls can do anything. This created my deep-rooted independence by allowing me to course-correct on my own and truly become myself— not who anyone ever wanted me to be.
To have someone love you so, so much just because you are you has been the greatest gift of my life. And that’s the other thing I know he will be remembered for: “He lived for his girls”. Yes, he sure did.
Richard Bailey Watkins Jr. will live on endlessly in my mind, heart and soul. I already feel him here with me. I love you, Dad. There are no words for how much I wish you were still here, but I am eternally grateful for every moment we did have together. Thank you for being mine.
The picture of a heart on my fathers chest is something I tattooed on him back when I was tattooing professionally. It represents his heart. 10 years ago he was on life support due to a heart attack and came back against all odds. The nurses and doctors had never seen someone come back from what he had endured. Strangely enough this happened at Erlanger hospital in Tennessee while on a business trip. The same hospital where his mother and sister had worked. With over 10 minutes without oxygen to his brain, they said he would be brain dead if he came back to life. We weren’t ready for him to go, and through his love and willpower he was able to remember us, walk again, drive again, and give us so many more beautiful moments with him.
He is the strongest and smartest person I’ve ever known. He’s a true genius and was incredibly successful in his lifetime. However his greatest pride and success in his life was raising his three girls. His unconditional love was unmoved and has touched the lives of so many. He saw each and every person as an equal and helped everyone who needed it. Status didn’t matter to him.
I am happy because of him. He made me know that anything is possible. No matter what I ever wanted to do in life he had 100% confidence that I could do it. He had this confidence in all three of his girls. As an artist who needs to express themselves as much as they need to breathe I am blessed that he never put me in a box. Never told me to go to college or what to do. He knew I could do anything. Now I am living a life I love to live and without him I am sure that would have been much different or at least much harder for me to achieve.
I wish everybody could experience that kind of love and confidence. I will never take that for granted. Through his influence I think expansively and believe in myself. He gave me and my sisters more than enough love and support to last an eternity. More incredible memories to cherish than we could have thought to ask for.
No more pain, no more suffering. The best man I know deserves that. His soul is so much bigger than his body. He knew it was time to go. He was ready. He did his job and an amazing job at that. Rest In Peace Dad. Your love is forever sound in the hearts of those you’ve impacted.
My dad was and will always be the strongest, most amazing man I know. He has overcome the toughest battles throughout his lifetime and somehow always remained positive and hopeful for his girls. His positive outlook on life and the way he made the most out of his 66 years on this earth is truly inspirational and I promised him during his last few days that I would do the same and make him proud. On september 29, 2010, we almost lost him to a massive heart attack. He was without oxygen for 10+ minutes, he was in a coma for over a month, and endured quadruple bypass heart surgery several years later. My sisters and I were told he wouldn’t make multiple times, it but somehow he did, it was a miracle. He was able to do almost everything he could do before. His love for his daughters was stronger than anything I’ve ever experienced. He knew we weren’t ready to lose him so he saw us all into adulthood with all the love and support in the world. I don’t know what I would’ve done without him these last 10 years. He has been there for us through it all and we’ve been able to make my most favorite memories that I will cherish forever. Dad, I love you so much. You have been my favorite part of this life. There won’t be a day that goes by that I wont think about you, miss you, and honor you. I know all you want in life is for your three girls to be happy. We will be there for each other and we will be strong for you. I wish I could run to you with a big hug and you could take this pain away just like you always have. I feel so, so lucky to be your daughter and to be loved by you. With everything you’ve been through, it seemed to me like you were immortal. Even though I knew your time was approaching, nothing could’ve ever prepared me for this. I know you will be with me always, guide me through life, and protect me. You will live on in our hearts forever. Rest In Peace Richard Bailey Watkins Jr.