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Claremont Courier - A Local Nonprofit Newsroom

Obituary: Rosalind Watson

Great grandmother, Hawaiian native, Village fixture

Rosalind S. Watson, a longtime fixture in the Claremont Village, died in January after a short illness at 99 years of age.

She was born Rosalind Nunes Santos in 1918 in the small plantation town of Ahualoa on the island of Hawaii, the seventh of 10 children to Frank and Mary Santos. When she was a young child the family moved to Oahu, where they had a home in Nuuanu, near the Nuuanu Pali Lookout.

At an early age she excelled in whatever she did. She was an exceptional student, artist and writer, and was interested in designing clothes. She chose not to pursue design, though, and after graduating high school enrolled in college to study business.

After the outbreak of World War II she worked as a secretary for the US Navy, where she also helped translate for enlistees who spoke Pidgin, the local Hawaiian language. While on an outing with friends she met Ralph Watson, who was the head of a construction crew on Midway Atoll that had been evacuated to Honolulu. On their first date he said he was going to marry her. They were married 28 days later.

With the war winding down, the young couple traveled to San Francisco on a navy boat that also carried prisoners of war. “Roz” thrived in San Francisco. She loved the city’s fashion and sophistication, which up until then she had only seen in movies. The newlyweds settled in Stockton, 80 miles east of San Francisco, where their daughter, Susan, was born. Later they moved to Los Angeles, Mr. Watson’s hometown.

In 1954 the family moved back to Honolulu. With all her family so close, Ms. Watson was delighted. She went to work for a chain of gift shops, ultimately becoming a store manager, and worked there for 30 years. 

In 1970 she got on a plane in Honolulu and flew by herself halfway around the world, to Liberia, West Africa, to be present for the birth of her grandchild, Jessica. She detested air travel, but was always a determined woman, her family shared.

She retired in 1986, and soon thereafter Mr. Watson died. After a few years she moved to Irvine, California, to be close to her daughter and family. Soon they all relocated to Claremont, where Ms. Watson lived in the Village. She loved her easy access to the quaint downtown area, and developed many friends in the small college town. She could often be seen gliding down the sidewalk, perfectly dressed with her hat and umbrella, on the way to the shops.

When her mobility became an issue, she moved in with her daughter. Her greatest joy was her time spent with her two great grandchildren, Drew and Laurel. She was thankful for having the opportunity to be an active part of their lives while they were growing up.

She loved to be with family and friends, entertaining them with stories, fixing favorite Hawaiian and Portuguese dishes and often getting up and doing the hula.

She is survived by her daughter and son-in-law, Susan and Jim Martin; her granddaughter and her husband, Jessica and James Marchant; and her great-grandchildren, Drew and Laurel Marchant, all of Claremont.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, February 24 at St. Ambrose Episcopal Church, 830 W. Bonita Ave., Claremont, with a reception to follow in the parish hall.

She will be buried aside Mr. Watson at Diamond Head Memorial Park in Honolulu.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Ms. Watson’s name to St. Ambrose Church by visiting stambroseclaremont.org/giving, or to Inland Valley Hope Partners at inlandvalleyhopepartners.org, with “CHAP” in the memo line.

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