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John Howard Watson passed away peacefully at his home on Saturday, October 10, 2020, surrounded by his wife and family. Howard was born on August 17, 1924, in Alliance, Nebraska. He was able to celebrate his 96th birthday in an outdoor celebration with his wife, children, grandchildren and great grandchild.

Howard is survived by his loving wife, Shirley Ann (Borcherding) Watson. They were married on October 17th, 1952 in Lincoln, Nebraska.  They were married for nearly sixty-eight years.  They had four children, Mark Howard Watson (Denise), Bruce Edward Watson (Anne), the late Paul Daniel Watson (Lori), and Janet Marie Smith (Dr. Samuel Smith).  They were blessed with twelve grandchildren, Jacob Daniel Watson (Jene),  Hannah Jean Blumenthal (Ben), John Raymond Watson, Jess Edward Watson, Sara Mary Cummings (Cory), Amy Leigh Kulas (Tyler), Nathaniel Howard Smith (Jenny), Rebecca Mary Smith, Eric Benjamin Smith, Tyler Edward Smith (Alanna), Ryan Daniel Smith, and Julia Ann Smith.  Howard and Shirley were also blessed with four great grandchildren, Jasper, Brock, and Evie Smith and Levi Howard Blumenthal. 

Howard was preceded in death by his son, Paul, his parents, John Daniel and Mary Patterson Watson, and his sister and brother-in-law, Jean and Dale Barry.

Howard was a veteran of World War II, having served in the Army Air Force as a radio operator and tail gunner.  The crew’s B-24 plane, Gidi Gidi Boom Boom, flew thirty nine missions out of Italy before being shot down over Romania.  Howard and the crew of the Gidi Gidi Boom Boom were captured and held prisoner of war for three months in Bulgaria before being freed by the Russian Army.  Howard was presented with the Purple Heart and a Quilt of Valor for his service to his country.

After returning home Howard began a lifelong career of farming with his father, John Daniel.  The family farm was homesteaded in 1891 and continues to be operated by sons Mark and Bruce and grandson John.

Howard was a very active member of the community.  He served on the Box Butte County Wheat Board, was a member and Deacon of the First Presbyterian Church, served on the Box Butte County ASCS committee, served for many years as a Military Honor Guard, and was a member of the Elks, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Eagles, and Lions Clubs.

Howard was a lifelong sports fan of the Alliance Bulldogs and Nebraska Cornhuskers.  He met Shirley on a blind date at a Husker football game.  He convinced Shirley to drive from Salt Lake City, Utah to Alliance on the final day of their honeymoon to get back home in time for a Bulldog football game.  Through the years, Howard and Shirley enjoyed their time together playing bridge with friends, golfing, square dancing, and traveling in their retirement years.

John Howard Watson passed away peacefully at his home on Saturday, October 10, 2020, surrounded by his wife and family. Howard was born on August 17, 1924, in Alliance, Nebraska. He was able to celebrate his 96th birthday in an outdoor celebration with his wife, children, grandchildren and great grandchild.

Howard is survived by his loving wife, Shirley Ann (Borcherding) Watson. They were married on October 17th, 1952 in Lincoln, Nebraska.  They were married for nearly sixty-eight years.  They had four children, Mark Howard Watson (Denise), Bruce Edward Watson (Anne), the late Paul Daniel Watson (Lori), and Janet Marie Smith (Dr. Samuel Smith).  They were blessed with twelve grandchildren, Jacob Daniel Watson (Jene),  Hannah Jean Blumenthal (Ben), John Raymond Watson, Jess Edward Watson, Sara Mary Cummings (Cory), Amy Leigh Kulas (Tyler), Nathaniel Howard Smith (Jenny), Rebecca Mary Smith, Eric Benjamin Smith, Tyler Edward Smith (Alanna), Ryan Daniel Smith, and Julia Ann Smith.  Howard and Shirley were also blessed with four great grandchildren, Jasper, Brock, and Evie Smith and Levi Howard Blumenthal. 

Howard was preceded in death by his son, Paul, his parents, John Daniel and Mary Patterson Watson, and his sister and brother-in-law, Jean and Dale Barry.

Howard was a veteran of World War II, having served in the Army Air Force as a radio operator and tail gunner.  The crew’s B-24 plane, Gidi Gidi Boom Boom, flew thirty nine missions out of Italy before being shot down over Romania.  Howard and the crew of the Gidi Gidi Boom Boom were captured and held prisoner of war for three months in Bulgaria before being freed by the Russian Army.  Howard was presented with the Purple Heart and a Quilt of Valor for his service to his country.

After returning home Howard began a lifelong career of farming with his father, John Daniel.  The family farm was homesteaded in 1891 and continues to be operated by sons Mark and Bruce and grandson John.

Howard was a very active member of the community.  He served on the Box Butte County Wheat Board, was a member and Deacon of the First Presbyterian Church, served on the Box Butte County ASCS committee, served for many years as a Military Honor Guard, and was a member of the Elks, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Eagles, and Lions Clubs.

Howard was a lifelong sports fan of the Alliance Bulldogs and Nebraska Cornhuskers.  He met Shirley on a blind date at a Husker football game.  He convinced Shirley to drive from Salt Lake City, Utah to Alliance on the final day of their honeymoon to get back home in time for a Bulldog football game.  Through the years, Howard and Shirley enjoyed their time together playing bridge with friends, golfing, square dancing, and traveling in their retirement years.

Howard enjoyed fishing and hunting.  He was an avid golfer.  Many fond family memories involved yearly vacations to Chadron State Park and Lake McConaughy. Most of all, Howard loved spending time with his beloved wife Shirley, his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.  They will miss his kind and gentle nature and his keen sense of humor. 

Howard showed us all how to live a life of humility, dignity, and service.  His leadership and values were at the core of what author Tom Brokaw declared as “The Greatest Generation”.  Howard showed us all the dedication and hard work required to raise a family, improve a community, and strengthen a nation.  He was a role model to all who knew him and we were very blessed to have him in our lives.        

Visitation will be held on Wednesday, October 14th, at Bates-Gould Funeral Home from 1 to 7 p.m.

The funeral service will be held on Thursday, October 15th at 1:00 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church in Alliance, Nebraska.  The family requests that attendees wear masks inside the church and practice social distancing.  A private family burial will follow at the Nebraska Veterans Cemetery.

The family requests charitable donations be made to the First Presbyterian Church Memorial or Regional West Hospice. 

Online condolences may be left at www.batesgould.com.

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