Below are just some of the beautiful words spoken by Rhonda McKenzie, niece of Ian “Watto” Watson on 11 December 2019 at his memorial.
“I’ve often wondered how other people see Ian”
In Ian’s first book, written in 2012, Every Bloke’s A Champion Even You!, Ian’s first son Haydn wrote the foreword which gives us an insight into “Watto”.
In it, Haydn says,
“I often wonder how other people see Ian. To me, he is my father, but he is also my hero, encourager, leveller, advisor and yardstick on life. I admire his courage, passion, willingness to help and encourage others and ability to challenge and push people out of their comfort zone…He has not left any stone unturned in his responsibility to be a good father to me and my two brothers and our families. He was never afraid to show his emotions and struggles. I know that I count on him to put himself on the line for me. It was easy for me to know my Father in Heaven by the example that my earthly father provides.”
Haydn believed that God gave Ian a sledge-hammer to open men’s hearts so that they can be healed and blessed. “Watto” made you feel like you were getting a half time footy talk which left you wanting to run through the dressing room wall to get into the game of life.
“I’ve never seen a bloke go backwards with encouragement”
One of “Watto’s” favourite sayings was, “I’ve never seen a bloke go backwards with encouragement” – and although that statement wasn’t confined to men only – Ian had a special calling to help Aussie blokes become what he called, “the real deal” and saw encouragement as one of the main keys to champion living. There were many dimensions to Ian and his life but I’m sure you will all agree that he can be remembered as a great encourager of others. Whether it be through word or action or slipping a bloke a $50 note and saying, “take your wife out for a coffee.”
In the late 90s and early 2000s, Ian’s passion to meet men where they are at, took off. He started a men’s group, for men who didn’t fit into the traditional church setting, which he called, Scrubbers. This later progressed to the Burger Bash, in the church car park, as Ian knew a lot of blokes weren’t comfortable in a church. Ian said at this time – “I had this sense that God told me to go to where the men are; to meet them there.”
In 2001, Ian helped kick off Shed Nights for blokes – not the Sheds where men work with their hands but a safe, non-judgemental place where men could hear real-deep gut issues – good, bad, happy or sad – through two or three blokes being interviewed up front. Held on the first Monday of each month the night starts with a burger where blokes from all walks of life enjoy being together. Ian travelled to many different places in Australia helping blokes get their Sheds happening.
“Watto” showed men the path of manhood and encouraged blokes to be real and genuine with themselves and each other.
“We may think we are going great in our trust. We really get to know if that’s true when we hit a fair-dinkum dry gully.”
In 2002, Ian was diagnosed with prostate cancer. In his book Every Bloke’s A Champion he writes, “We may think we are going great in our trust. We really get to know if that’s true when we hit a fair-dinkum dry gully.”
Prostate cancer was Ian’s dry gully.
He asked God to teach him to trust Him more in all things each day. Ian knew it wasn’t all about how much his beautiful wife loved him, or his family’s support, or having a positive attitude, like society told him it was. It’s all about trusting God and knowing “Whose I am” and that “I’m safe with someone I can trust.”
Ian knew God blew breath into him at the start and only God would take him to eternity. He believes that God does this so we can charge on and enjoy the fantastic life he gave us to be the real-deal God created us to be.
“Watto” would be heard to say: “I know that I am Ian Frederick Hamilton Watson, champion son of the King.”
He wanted to encourage every other bloke he put in his life to know that he, too, is a champion son, just like he was.
Ian’s encouragement to men continued on ABC radio between 2012 and 2016 with presenters Phil Smith and Michael Knight. The program was called, Shed Happens. This was in addition to featuring on Vision Radio on numerous occasions and Ian writing 4 books as another avenue to help men with life issues.
Those books, Every Bloke’s a Champion – Even You! (2012), Champion Blokes Shed their Shame! (2015), Champion Blokes Learn to Love (2017) and Can we Talk? (2019) were even converted to audiobooks so long-distance truck drivers and farmers could listen to them whilst working.
“Life can be a battle and no-one misses out on the hard parts.”
Over the course of Ian’s life, he changed jobs, homes, cars and interests, yet there was one constant and unwavering love – the love of his life – the woman who he said was the most beautiful woman in the world, the girl of his dreams – Margaret Watson.
Ian said he was the luckiest man in the world to be married to Margaret. He always said she had the best style and the most beautiful heart. Throughout Ian and Margaret’s marriage, their uniqueness brought a richness to their relationship. Every day for Margaret was a new adventure, often starting at 4am. Margaret worked hard to get Ian to live a life of balance - to slow down and rest and eat good food.
Ian and Margaret had different but complementary strengths. Through all the ups and downs of Ian’s life, Margaret was his reference point. While Ian had the grand gestures and words and was expressive and generous, Margaret was the temperance behind him. Their marriage is an inspiration to us all – there was always that intentional coming back together, wanting to love and support each other, always acting in the other’s best interests. The strong bond between Ian and Margaret, based in their love for God, was shown every day in the way they spoke about each other and through their actions. This love gave them the confidence and peace to love each of us.
Ian’s desire was to see Aussie blokes free to fully experience their emotions, heads, souls and spirits, through being in a safe place to spill their guts and become the real deal. In Every Bloke’s A Champion, Ian says, “Life can be a battle and no-one misses out on the hard parts.” Ian fought the good fight in the end accepting with dignity that his time was up. He showed great humility throughout his many visits to Redcliffe Palliative Care Unit, concerned more about Margaret and the staff than himself. Over time Ian had many visitors who got to share the profound impact he had on their lives. After spending the final days with family and close friends, he passed away peacefully Thursday afternoon (5 December 2019).
“Life is my passion. I like to live it, not look at it. I’ve had a great life and enjoyed every part of my manhood – the good, the bad, the happy, the sad.”
As a former office worker, a soldier for two years, an Aussie Rules footy player and coach, a truck driver, and a truck driving instructor, “Watto” enjoyed a lifetime of helping and encouraging men (and women) - old and young - in footy, driving, doing business, and just plain old “Doing Life.”
His faith shone through him.
From his eyes.
From his smile.
From his heart.
Love is patient and kind.
And it will forever be, Ian “Watto” Watson.
Russell Modlin teaches English and Physical Education at a Christian School on the Sunshine Coast. He is married to Belinda and they have three children.
Russell Modlin’s archive of previous article can be found at www.pressserviceinternational.org/russell-modlin.html