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WAC Sports New Bust Of Benefactor, Eponym

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A new installation outside the Watson Art Centre (WAC) pays tribute to the man for whom the building is named.

A bronze bust of Dr. Vernon Watson was unveiled by his son Roger at a special ceremony outside the WAC, last week.

“It’s beautiful and it’s permanent and it’s remembering people that made a difference in other people’s lives,’ Roger said. “So we think it’s perfect.”

Watson shared with those assembled a little about his family’s history in Dauphin. His great grandfather, he said, came to Dauphin in the late 1800s from Portage la Prairie to operate a sawmill.

Vernon was born in 1918 to Howard and Edna Watson, learning the values of community participation and helping out from his parents as he grew. As a young man he used money earned from a paper route to hire a Catholic nun to teach him violin. During the Second World War, Vernon attended dental school in Toronto completing an accelerated program and began his practice at the air force base in Rivers, Man., eventually returning to Dauphin to set up his private practice.

“He was allergic to cold, can you imagine? So if he got cold, the proteins in his blood would precipitate and he’d swell up,” Roger said, adding his father could have chosen to ply his trade anywhere. “He just loved (Dauphin). He was involved with the town band and he loved music, I think, more than anything. He was an assistant band master for 40 years, that’s a long time.”

Vernon also served on the local school board for six years and had one failed attempt at being elected mayor.

Involved in numerous community organizations, in 1972 he spearheaded the formation of the Dauphin and District Allied Arts Council, serving as its president from 1973 to 1979. He was instrumental in seeing the historic Dauphin town hall renovated and transformed into the Dauphin Allied Arts Center, now known as the WAC. He also served on the board of directors for the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and was a founding member of the board of directors for the International Music Camp.

Throughout it all Vernon helped people where and however he could.

“He had a kind heart for people,” Roger said. “Way back when we were driving along Main Street I remember he said ‘it’s important to remember people.’ “He cared so much about so many things. He loved art and music and culture and those types of things and his values were to be kind and gentle and help people.”

The idea for the bust, which was commissioned by the family, sprang from Roger’s travels around the world.

“I’ve always loved London and Paris and the statues and everything. So when I saw the statues around town, I thought it might be a good idea to put up a bust of my dad,” Roger said, adding a trip to the facility producing the bust provided him an opportunity to get involved in its production, hands on.
“I was able to do some of the carving, because being a dentist, we learn carving.”

Watson family members have been key benefactors of the arts in Dauphin, making significant contributions to growing the sector in the community.

Vernon Watson died June 12, 1984, and is buried in Riverside Cemetery.