Albert was born March 23, 1927 in East Selah, Washington to his parents Laurence and Marion Watkins. He was welcomed into the family by his older brother Johnny and sisters Margaret and Lila. He was the “baby” of the family for thirteen years until his brother Lynn came along. He was thus given the nickname Babe of which he was known throughout his life to many.
Al spent many of his growing up years on horse-back with his older brother and sisters herding the family dairy cows on the sagebrush hills East of the Yakima River in East Selah. At that time there was no Roza Canal or freeway to block the cattle walking into the hills, only a primitive road going to the Yakima River canyon and on to Ellensburg. There were only a few Model T vintage cars and slow-moving trucks on the road for the cattle to be herded around. When he was old enough, he joined the United States Navy and was given his assignment on a ship in the Pacific theater of World War II. Since this was near the end of WWII, his ship never saw any combat action but spent most of the time bringing men and equipment back to the United States. After he was discharged from the Navy, he took advantage of the GI Bill and studied Animal Husbandry at Washington State College.
Al married his high school sweetheart, Irene Lynch on December 9, 1947. They were married by his uncle George Lathim. Nine years later Al and Irene welcomed their first child Allen into their family, and then another five years later their daughter Julie.
Al became a journeyman carpenter and welder and worked on numerous construction sites around the country, including Alaska, the Priest Rapids Dam in Washington and John Day dam in Oregon. He retired from the Bureau of Reclamation.
Al also worked at different times on the farm with his brothers Johnny and Lynn. He was a deep thinker and came up with many ideas for improving the operation of the farm. He was instrumental in building grain storage bins out of some surplus heavy natural gas storage tanks, designing a hog farrowing building and many other improvement ideas. One of his farm chores was to drive the truck to the Darigold Creamery in Yakima to pick up buttermilk to feed to the pigs. While waiting for the buttermilk to be ready he would often visit with the German cheese maker there, who would talk about the Gospel and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Al became interested, was baptized and was a faithful member for the rest of his life. He was the first member in the Watkins line to become a member of the church. He was always willing to help out on church money making projects such as distributing pollinating bees in orchards, catching chickens and loading them on trucks to be taken to slaughter. He wanted to serve a mission for the church but for different reasons was not able to. He then took it on himself to serve behind the scenes by doing small things that were mostly unnoticed, such as filling the baptismal font for a number of years, going to church early in the morning to set up chairs in various classrooms and volunteering for projects that needed help. He served faithfully throughout his life in many different callings in the church.
Al lived in Alaska and White Swan, WA and eventually moved to his Pomona Road property in the 1980s with Irene. His daughter Julie and her family eventually moved next door where Al and his family enjoyed their riverfront property with several horses and many outdoor projects. He often spent time with his brother Lynn and his family who lived up the road always helping wherever he could. You hardly ever saw Al inside as he enjoyed his work outside. He was well known for making the best jam from scratch, chocolate chip cookies and dried fruits and loved to make fresh pressed cider yearly and homemade ice cream. Eventually he took over the role of the German chocolate birthday cake to give his daughter for her birthday every year. He would call his grandkids to come down and get cookies out of his famous cookie tin as soon as he finished making them and shared his special treats with many. He gave the best “bear hugs” and would rock you side to side and say, “Oh boy, Oh Boy, Oh Boy!”
Al’s wife Irene died November 6, 2010. Al was then left a single man for the rest of his mortal life, but was always optimistic and willing to help anyone in need. He was eternally sealed to Irene in the LDS Temple. Over the years he made many friends and will always be remembered as a kind, friendly and generous man.
Al spent the last couple of years at Living Care in the Summitview Health Care Center where he was given good loving care. It was quite a lifestyle change for him as he was used to spending his time in the outdoors, but he still made the best of it. The staff loved him and often said “he is the sweetest man.” He lived simply and didn’t ask for much except bananas and peppermints which became two of his favorite treats while at Living Care. He cherished the time that his granddaughter Robyn spent with him as his nurse and friend, going on drive outings and to appointments and even sneaking off to get ice cream. His caring brother Lynn came as often as he could to visit and take Al to church and for drives and family visits. When asked if he needed anything his answer was “be my friend” and Lynn did just that. He always made sure to say “I love you” before his family would leave the room.
Al was a deep thinker. He enjoyed Elder Neal A. Maxwell’s insights on life. “How can we truly understand who we are unless we know who we were and what we have the power to become? How can there be real identity without real history? How can one understand his tiny, individual plot without knowing, even a little, about Father’s grand, galactic plans?”-Elder Neal A. Maxwell
Al is preceded in death by his parents Laurence Watkins and Marion (Lathim) Watkins, wife Irene (Lynch) Watkins, brother Johnny Watkins, sister Lila (Watkins) Gillis, and Margaret (Watkins) Moore.
He is survived by his brother Lynn Watkins (wife Elizabeth) of East Selah, WA, daughter Julie (Watkins) Sherman of Hawaii, granddaughter Robyn (Folkerts) McDonald (husband Jake) of Selah, WA, grandson Travis Folkerts of Yakima, WA and granddaughter Cortney (Sherman) Ekenbarger (husband Tyler) of Hawaii; son Allen Watkins (wife Victoria) of East Selah, WA, grandson Albert Watkins and granddaughter Carolina Watkins of Central America; 8 great-grandchildren and several nieces and nephews.
We will always miss Al, but are happy that he is now at peace with loved ones that have passed on.
Public Viewing is scheduled for Tuesday, December 15, 2020 from 4:30-7:00 pm at Shaw & Sons Funeral Home (201 N. 2nd St., Yakima, WA 98901) with a private family Burial at West Hills Memorial Park. Celebration of Life will be held at a later date.
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