‘Uncle Bob’s family to continue tradition of giving

The Garden Island

Before Robert Theodore “Uncle Bob” Watts Sr. died on Dec. 19, 2006, he ensured that Koloa Plantation Days would still benefit from his family’s generosity after he was gone.

Phyllis Kunimura, who is president of the Koloa Plantation Days board, considers Bob Watts a co-founder of the annual community event that began in 1985 as part of the celebration of Koloa Plantation’s sesquicentennial.

“We had such fun with the celebration the first year, we got together and did it again the next year,” she remembers. “But the third year, nothing was done.”

It was then that Bob Watts called and said, “Let’s get something going.”

And get it going they did. Every year, he contributed money to help the fledgling celebration prosper and grow. He helped send out letters soliciting support and helped the Koloa Plantation Days board become incorporated.

“He has been a pillar in the background, always supporting us and believing in it,” Kunimura said. “He even set aside money in his will for Koloa Plantation Days.”

Born in King City, Calif., on April 10, 1915, Watts graduated in 1936 with a B.S. degree in Business Education from Armstrong Business College in Berkeley.

He arrived in Honolulu on the Lurline in 1937 to teach at a business school in Honolulu and a year later took a job with C.B. Hofgaard, a subsidiary of American Factors (Amfac) in Waimea. It was on Kaua‘i that he met his wife, Marjorie Mae Waterhouse, who was born and raised in Koloa. They wed in 1942 before he went to Officer Candidate Training School in Fort Benning, Ga., and were married for 43 years.

He served as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army during WWII in Fiji, Bougainville, the Philippines and Japan and was awarded the Bronze Star. He returned to Kaua‘i after the war and continued working at Amfac in ‘Ele‘ele, Koke‘e, Koloa and Kekaha.

In 1959, he was transferred to Honolulu, where he retired as a credit manager from Amfac in 1980 and lived in Kailua until his death.

During his retirement, Watts took an interest in his wife’s family heritage as descendants of New England missionaries and their long-time association with Koloa. He was instrumental in selecting the developers who restored many of the old plantation stores and buildings in Old Koloa Town and established, through the Hawaii Community Foundation, the Koloa Scholarship Fund for residents of Koloa to Kalaheo who planned on continuing their education beyond high school.

After his wife’s death, he and his sons, Robert Jr. and Kendall, established the Marjorie Waterhouse Reading Enhancement Grant-Koloa School Fund to encourage and promote the love of reading in students at Koloa School.

In 2005, he was one of the grand marshals of the Koloa Plantation Days parade. That year also marked his 90th birthday. His family hosted a large birthday celebration at Smith-Waterhouse property at Koloa Landing.

Bob and Marjorie Waterhouse Watts’ tradition of giving is being continued after his death. His nephew Peter Dease recently presented two contribution checks, one from the Smith-Waterhouse Family of Koloa and the other from Kendall Palmer Watts, to the Committee.

 Koloa Plantation Days 2007 will be held from July 21 through July 29. The theme this year is “Camp Life, Plantation Style.” Details about the week-long celebration will be published in upcoming issues of The Garden Island.

• Rita DeSilva is the special sections editor and can be reached via e-mail at rdesilva@kauaipubco.com or at 245-3681 ext. 241.

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