June "Penny" Watson
June Penelope "Penny" Watson, 80, of Iowa City, passed from this life on Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020, at Hills Atrium Village.
Penny was born in Jackson, Mich., the only child of Evelyn Paula Sanders and Roy Frank Vanek. She grew up in Chicago and then in Muscatine, Iowa, where she attended Muscatine High School and graduated valedictorian of her class. An English major and Iowa Writers' Workshop participant at the University of Iowa, Penny also was a member of Zeta Tau Alpha sorority. On a blind date to a sorority event, Penny first met her future husband, Richard Watson, a fellow undergraduate and jazz pianist who turned down the opportunity to see an Ella Fitzgerald concert in order to meet her.
After college, Penny moved to Chicago and took a job as a copywriter for the Sears Roebuck catalogue, working in the Sears Tower until she agreed to become Mrs. Richard Watson. They were married on Aug. 17, 1963. Together, the newlyweds settled in Iowa City. They had their first daughter, Evelyn (Eve) in 1966, then Michelle (Micki) in 1967, and Elisabeth (Liz) in 1969. Taking care of three little girls was a full-time job, and Penny enjoyed being a homemaker for many years. When her children were older, she took a position as the secretary of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Iowa City for almost 10 years, a job she cherished and mastered until typewriters were switched out for computers. At that point, Penny decided it was time to retire. She always enjoyed the old-fashioned more than the new-fangled.
Penny was an avid animal lover, reader and Anglophile who loved mysteries, old movies, Masterpiece Theater, and all things quaint, cozy and comfortable. Nevertheless, she was a lightning-fast and almost unbeatable triple solitaire player. More often than not, she had a dog or a cat in her lap, a cup of French vanilla coffee in one hand and the New York Times crossword puzzle in the other. She was first and foremost a warm, giving, sensitive and invested mother and devoted wife. All three of her daughters resemble her and were shaped by her kindness, passion for animals, literary predisposition, and unconditional and selfless love.
A longtime PEO sister in the KZ chapter and member of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Penny also was a faithful Christian who served others as a Stephen minister. She loved to visit nursing homes and offer comfort and companionship to those in need. Although she enjoyed traveling around the world with her husband and family, she was always grateful to return to her beloved house with its resident pets and bay window, a house that survived two floods and was rebuilt twice, exactly the way it was before, because why change something that is already exactly the way you like it?
Penny was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2005 and, from the day of her diagnosis, vowed to live in the moment. For many years after, she retained her sense of wonder at the beauty of the natural world and the warmth of smiling faces. At the end of her life, she gifted her family with lovely moments of recognition and fleeting but radiant smiles. She leaves behind not only her three daughters but five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
A celebration of Penny's life will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 28, at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, 140 Gathering Place Lane, Iowa City. Penny's service will be livestreamed on Saturday afternoon and can be viewed at the service time or anytime later. To view please search "Remembering Penny Watson" on Facebook and request to join the group.
Memorial donations can be made in her memory to St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, the Iowa City Animal Care and Adoption Center, the Iowa City Public Library or the Iowa Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association.
The family would like to extend special thanks to the staff at Atrium Village for their deep caring and generous accommodation, as well as to Essence of Life Hospice.
To share a thought, memory or condolence, visit the Gay & Ciha website at www.gayandciha.com.
Social distancing standards will be in place along with the expectation of all in attendance to wear a mask. If you arrive without a mask, one will be provided to you by the funeral home. Thank you for supporting Penny's family with your presence and being conscientious in doing so.