Celebrating the life of Winzalo Thomas Don Watkins, Sr.
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Winzalo Thomas “Don” Watkins, Sr. was born in Crystal River, Florida on November 17, 1931. He was one of fifteen children born to the union of the late William and Ida Watkins.
He attended the public schools of Citrus County and graduated Salutatorian from the formerly known Booker T. Washington High School in Inverness (Inverness High School, later known as Inverness Middle School). He was employed by the Citrus County Board of Public Instruction during his junior year in High School and got his start in 1949 as a School Bus Driver, in which he completed more than 18 years; and Master Mechanic.
He attended Central Florida Junior College, the University of Florida, Florida A&M University and earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of South Florida. He attended the General Motors Technical School for Instructors where he held a Rank III Certificate in Trade and Industrial Education, as well as specialized certificates in Automotive Mechanics. He has a wall of certificates in his home office that he earned over the years, including, but not limited to his Teaching Certification from the State of Florida.
In 1964, “Mr. Don” began his professional training for a career in teaching Trade and Industrial Education. He initiated vocational training called “Job Entry” where High School students learned “Real World” applications for living, while earning High School credits. He helped students find gainful employment and taught them courses such as “Money Management”, “How to Interview”, “How to Dress and fill out Applications” and much more. He also encouraged the local school board to open a training course for Auto Mechanics, with which he was involved since the mid-1960s, in the county. Except for 16 months of military service, “Mr. Don” was with the school system until he retired.
Deacon Watkins loved the Lord and gave his life to Christ at a very early age. He would say, “I had so many hands laid on me, and people would often tell me, “I’m a preacher”, yet, I am apt to teach, and that’s what God told ME to do. I won’t allow anyone to put me out on a limb and leave me there for it to break off”! He was often called, “The Bishop” because of his dress, demeanor and behavior. Still, he held fast to his belief that he was a Deacon, apt to teach!
Deacon Watkins was a faithful member of Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church for over twenty years (joined under Rev. G. W. Dobson, Pastor), and was very active on the State level. He served as the President of the Youth Division for the Florida General Baptist Convention, and was a strong and active participant at the conventions, and transported members to the conventions as well.
He was baptized as a teenager; however, after he married and was filled with the Holy Ghost, he decided to transfer his membership to the House of God, the Church of the Living God, the Pillar & Ground of the Truth, Inc. where he faithfully served until he became ill. He served in many capacities, including, Chairman Deacon, Choir Director, Musician (Steel Guitar), Soloist, and Chairman of the Official Board. He was a man full of faith, and very astute in Business and Administration.
God blessed him with spiritual gifts; He gave him the “Spirit of Wisdom”, the “Word of Knowledge”, “Visions” and “Dreams”. When asked by his daughter (Mariea), how and when did God began to manifest the gifts, he replied, “Baby, there was just not a lot of knowledge or help for us doing those times, and I would meditate and pray until I felt a peace come over me. If I didn’t feel peace I wouldn’t move. Later, I begin to see things, people and events. I had knowledge. I knew things about people. My own prayers, I would know what to do. God began sending me to people. I had details, and it became so strong, I prayed to God to ease it up, because I never had much rest, running to help this one, and going to see about that one...”
One day, the Spirit of the Lord spoke to him while he was building his home on North Georgia Road, and told him from the book of Haggai, “Is it time for you to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste”? The old parsonage sat dilapidated with run down toilets, the church was also in need of repair. God showed him in a vision how to raise funds (displaying a large thermometer) to repair the church, later, to build an office and the Fellowship Hall. A newspaper article was written bout him titled, “If I had a hammer...”, picturing him nailing the wood framing for a window at the church. When the church wanted to purchase a bus, the Lord gave him the wisdom on how to purchase it and pay it off in two years. He worked hard, he worked long and he worked well.
Deacon Watkins was a pillar in the community. He helped to establish and raise thousands of dollars for the building of the George Washington Carver Community Center. He was an historian and an invaluable resource to many throughout Citrus County and the State of Florida. He felt very compelled to learn the laws of the land to help protect, not only himself and his family, but the innocent, especially, African-Americans who have suffered much in the judicial system. He went and was trained in law enforcement and became a Deputy Sheriff in Citrus County. He had been given the ability to help diffuse tensions, especially when dealing with alleged crimes of, then, “Black” people. He, however, served all races unconditionally. He encouraged many, was a father figure to many young men in the community and tried to help all who asked him, including the unique opportunity to be in the movie, “Crosswinds” as well as having been featured as a soloist on television, accompanied by his wife, Mary Frances in the 60’s. Extraordinary for “Coloreds” during those days.
Universities began calling upon him as a consultant. He helped recommend textbooks for studies at the University of South Florida. The State of Florida called upon him as a representative to Washington, D.C. Many newspaper articles have been written about him for his years of service to his family, church, community and state.
Grandfather loved his family and would do anything to help any of them. He often said, “You can always come home.” He leaves to cherish, a lovely, dedicated and devoted wife of 63 years, Mary Frances Watkins of Crystal River, FL; three sons: Winzalo Thomas Don Watkins, Jr. (Dr. Linda H. Watkins) of Beverly Hills, FL, Lemuel L. Watkins, Sr. (Sherry Figueroa-Watkins) of McDonough, GA, Michael A. Watkins (Sandra Watkins) of Oviedo, FL; three daughters: Polly Mott of Marietta, GA, Rev. Dr. Mariea E. Watkins of Crystal River, FL and Charlene T. Watkins of Crystal River, FL; One brother, Franklin D. Watkins (Altamese Watkins) of Lakeland, FL; Eleven grandchildren, Twelve great grandchildren, and many nephews, nieces, cousins, family and friends. Thirteen brothers and sisters preceded him in death.
Wake Services: Friday, May 15, 2015 ~ 5pm to 7pm ~ The Independent House of God Church of the Living God, The Pillar & Ground of the Truth, Inc. ~ 557 NE 2nd Avenue, Crystal River, FL 34429
Viewing/Services: Saturday, May 16, 2015 ~ Viewing from 9:30am to 11am, followed by Celebration of Life at 11am~ The Independent House of God Church of the Living God, The Pillar & Ground of the Truth, Inc. ~ 557 NE 2nd Avenue, Crystal River, FL 34429, Bishop Leonard T. Smith, Pastor/Officiating
Interment: Crystal Memorial Gardens ~ Crystal River, FL 34429