Few people have touched as many lives on Vashon Island and West Seattle than Allen J. Watts. “Al” to his friends. “Doc Watts” to his generations of dental patients in West Seattle.
Al and his wife Muriel came to Maury Island in 1963 when they bought a small cabin in Dockton along with a piece of adjacent farmland, which they dubbed “Appleyard Farm.” That’s where Al used his considerable experience growing up on a farm in rural Minnesota during the Depression to transform his land into something special over the next 50+ years.
He raised chickens and a variety of exotic birds than won prizes at shows all over the country. Some of the species were nearly extinct when he started breeding them and he took great joy in seeing their offspring at shows in the subsequent years. He had a donkey named Rosie and a pet llama, which were also big hits with the neighborhood kids.
Over the years Al raised many varieties of apples, pears, berries, rhododendrons, Japanese maples, sunflowers, prize-wining pumpkins, and corn. One of his other great joys was sharing that bounty with others.
Born in 1923, he grew up without electricity or running water, and was instilled with a work ethic that he carried throughout his 98 years.
When he was five years old, Al started helping his father milk their 14 cows twice a day. They relied on their horses for plowing their field because they couldn’t afford a tractor and they fed their family all year long with what they raised on their land.
He recalled one time when they couldn’t afford to pay their full property tax bill and his father borrowed $8 from the bank to make up the difference.
After serving in the Navy during World War II, he graduated from dental school and decided to settle down in Seattle. He began his practice in White Center and then opened his own dental office in West Seattle where he served the community for 39 years. The brick office he built near the VFW Hall on Alaska Street is still in use today.
Al Watts also left his mark with his considerable community service, starting as a volunteer at the nearby YMCA and later as a board member and chairman of the building committee for 18 years. He led the effort to build the $5 million structure that currently houses the West Seattle Y. and Dr. Watts was often the one who quietly did the repairs on the building.
He was one of the founders of the West Seattle Helpline, which continues to offer emergency aid to the needy. Al was also a Boy Scout leader in West Seattle for many years, acting as Scoutmaster to as many as 74 boys at a time.
Another one of his passions was the West Seattle Lions Club, where he served in every leadership role for many decades.
In every one of these selfless roles, he was the driving force to get things done and make a difference in other people’s lives.
He is survived by his wife of more than 65 years, Muriel, their children Brad, Tim, and Leanne, seven grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren who will never forget him.