WESTLOCK – Westlock Rotary Club held its 55th-annual Charter Night celebration Jan. 20, a combination Robbie Burns event and salute to one the club’s remaining Charter Member, Dr. Allan Watt, the club’s resident expert on Burns who not only toasted and but addressed the haggis.
Dr. Watt, who first moved to town with his wife Margaret and their two young children in 1964, was one of 23 Charter Members of the club when it was it came into existence on Jan. 17, 1968 — that night the late Dick Ponting was chosen as the first cub president, with Dr. Watt as vice-president. The club was made up of a variety of local businesses and professions and in Rotary tradition, Dr. Watt became president in 1969-1970.
In a follow-up interview, Dr. Watt said the Boeing 707 they travelled on landed in Winnipeg very early in on a cold and windy December morning where they were checked in as newly-arrived Canadian immigrants. But before resuming the flight to Edmonton, he said the plane’s windshield had to be replaced. Then, after re-boarding, as the plane began take-off, one engine caught fire, and the plane stopped some distance from the terminal. Dr. Watt recalls all the passengers had a hasty and cold brisk walk back to the terminal. And again, there was a wait before another plane brought them on to Edmonton, followed by their journey to Westlock.
In Westlock he joined doctors A. Cobban, J. Deacon, and R. Little at the Associate Medical Clinic. In a letter to the club from former nurse Donna Keller, she noted, “The building was a red brick structure with twelve steps out front- great for patients with heart conditions and broken legs!”
Obviously, that rather odd and interesting arrival didn’t deter them, as Dr. Watt and his wife continue to live their retirement years in Westlock. After spending some previous years in his medical practice in the rugged areas of North Borneo, perhaps it didn’t seem all that bad.
Dr. Watt and his family soon settled into the routine of Westlock, with him continuing his medical practise until his retirement in early 2001. And all the while, he continued as a member of the Westlock Rotary Club, involved in many roles and club projects through the years, and his involvement in the community.
In his tribute to Dr. Watt, current club co-president Todd Ducharme noted that, “In 1977, due to his considerable knowledge and understanding of changes happening in golf, he redesigned the front nine holes at the Westlock Golf Course by building grass greens and lengthening many of the holes.”
Just another way he has given back to the community.
“He has been instrumental in his support to many local causes, specifically the hospital, the golf course, but also Westlock Terminals, the Rotary Spirit Centre, the CT Scan project, the Rotary Trail, to name a few,” Ducharme noted. “He and Margaret enthusiastically contributed to all club fundraising events like the dinner theatre, golf tournaments and Mother’s Day runs, Christmas parties, year-end BBQs, Charter Nights and a myriad of other fun, and interesting events over the past 55 years.”
In her letter to the club for the tribute, Keller, who worked at the clinic alongside Dr. Watt for many years, wrote, “Getting to know him I gained respect for his honesty, integrity and hard work. He expected the same from his staff. He was caring and generous to those who worked for him and was highly respected by his colleagues.
“Days weren't always full of laughs being a busy family physician in the community, but we always seemed to have interesting coffee breaks with intellectual chatter. Topics I remember included the geography lessons and the quizzes on collective nouns such as " a murder of crows.” We also had lots of ancient historical facts … some I enjoyed, some not so much.
“Dr. Alan Watt has the respect of the community not only as a physician, but also as a man who has put forth many volunteer hours of work in projects to benefit Westlock.”
In response, Dr. Watt said, “It’s nice when your praise is sung, but really, you’re only as good as the people around you. And eventually, that’s what it amounts to. To all of the people who have helped me along the way, thank you very much.”