James Harold Watson, 63, passed away peacefully in Van Buren on Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018, after decades of battling the beast known as cancer. Jim was born to Elmer and Lillie Watson of Chester on Oct. 22, 1954. He grew up in Chester and graduated from Mountainburg High School in 1973. He loved the area and after an eight-year stint in the United States Army, where he learned to be an electrician, he moved himself and his then pregnant wife Corrina back to “the hillside” in Chester in late 1981 where their first daughter (Crystal) was later born. He was blessed with a second daughter (Jamie) in 1984. Over the years he purchased more property adjacent to the homestead and worked the land into a beautiful 70-acre farm complete with cows, sheep, goats, chickens and, at one point, emus.

The couple parted ways after more than 20 years of marriage but became reacquainted and friends again after the tragic passing of their daughter Crystal (Watson-Buswell) in 2013.

Jim could be called “strong willed” and one to “loudly voice an opinion,” but he was the hardest worker ever known and was respected by all those who worked with or for him. He began working for Macsteel/Gerdau in 1984 and continued doing so for over 30 years, not retiring until he physically could no longer put in the hours in 2015. To culminate the time, his retirement cake included the phrase he was wildly known for – “Enjoy your ‘CottonPickin’ Retirement.”

Never known as one to sit-back and relax, Jim started several construction projects on the hillside after his retirement, one of which included him lifting 50-pound blocks only a week after having neck surgery. The man never knew when to stop. He just couldn’t help himself. If work needed to be done, he was there with the tools for the job – or more likely – he didn’t have the right tools, but would find a way to jerry-rig something to make it work.

He loved tacos, jalapeno poppers, lemon bars, monkey bread and pineapple upside down cake fresh from the oven. When he wasn’t working on a “project” he could generally be found settling in for an action flick.

Known as a jack of all trades, he was a hard man, but had a soft spot for kids and people in need. If asked for help he was there, and many times he was there, regardless if he was asked or not.

He also loved animals, his dog Penny becoming his best girl in the last few years.

He leaves behind a daughter, Jamie Watson-McDonnor and husband Daniel; three grandchildren, Sean and Jillian McDonnor of Chester and Porter Buswell of Greenwood, an awesome sister, Jane Key of Van Buren; an extraordinary niece, Melody Deaton of Chester; a remarkable sister-in-law, Joyce Watson of Van Buren; and numerous other wonderful nieces, nephews and friends.

He will be greatly missed by all those who truly knew him.

Memorial service will be 10 a.m. Saturday at Edwards Van-Alma Funeral Home Chapel. Cremation is under the direction of Edwards Van-Alma Funeral Home of Van Buren.

The family will visit with friends immediately following the service at Edwards Van-Alma Funeral Home, 4100 Alma Highway, Van Buren.

Memorial contributions may be made to the American Cancer Society at donate3.cancer.org.

To place an online tribute, go to www.edwardsvan-alma.com.