Just another reason to smile

John Watson, right, makes a surprise appearance on the new downtown Pittston mural holding a tomato cake with his dad's old buddy Chef Biagio Dente.

John Watson, right, makes a surprise appearance on the new downtown Pittston mural holding a tomato cake with his dad’s old buddy Chef Biagio Dente.

I stopped by the new mural in downtown Pittston Sunday afternoon and much to my surprise found John Watson smiling down at me.
Known by “Chick” or “Chickie” to many, but just John to me, he and I worked together for several years producing Pittston’s newspaper, the Sunday Dispatch. But my relationship with him began long before that.
John was not much younger than I, but when I, as a teenager, helped coach in the Pittston Little League, John Watson was a slick fielding shortstop for the Moose Club team. Never a power hitter, he blasted a long home run to win a Little League all star game in Dupont.
I remember it well. Probably because within a week I was working at his dad’s newspaper. William A. Watson, Jr., whom everyone including me called “Pidge,” hired me as a part-time sports writer. It was the summer of 1967 and I’ve worked in the newspaper business ever since.
The job meant I had a front row seat for young John Watson’s life. I was around when he got his driver’s license. I sat in the bleachers and watched him play high school basketball. I was at his high school graduation party. I got to know his girlfriend who later became his wife. I toasted the birth of his first daughter. And his second. I took him along on news assignments as he cut his teeth in his family’s business. I proofread his work, as later he did mine. I ran with him, played tennis with him, argued with him, laughed with him, and drank plenty of beers with him.
And a couple of years ago I attended his funeral.
So gazing up at John’s face on the side of the Penn Park building filled me with a wide range of emotions.
But mostly I just smiled back at him.
I immediately had a sense of what he was doing there, and his eyes told me I was right.
See, John was not voted to be on the mural. Pidge was. And it was obvious to me the artist had gotten his hands on the wrong photograph to work with.
Just like John, I thought, who was not only one of the most talented people I have ever met but also one of the luckiest.
The thing is, John looks fabulous in the mural. The likeness is spot-on. His expressive face adds a lot to the overall work. There is nothing to not like about his being there.
My daughter, who works in advertising, calls things like this a “happy accident” and her words came to mind as I looked up at John.
I was told later that the artist will fix the mistake by adding Pidge to the mural. “But he’s not going to remove John, is he?” I pleaded.
I was relieved to find he is not.
Take it from me, if Pidge Watson had his say, he’d insist John be on the mural instead of him. And his son Bill as well. And especially his dad, William A. Watson Sr., the paper’s founding editor.
Indeed, I would not be a bit surprised if Pidge had somehow orchestrated all of this from beyond.
In fact, I hope he did.

Ed Ackerman