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August 28, 2022

James (Jim) Robert Watson

Memorial Service

Sunday, November 20, 2022

2 PM

Old Ship Church

107 Main Street
Hingham, MA 02043

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James Robert Watson

Massachusetts City Planner and

Champion of the Engaged Public Life

Dies at 85

James (Jim) Robert Watson of Hingham died suddenly, passing on Sunday, August 28, 2022, at Linden Ponds. He was 85. He is already much missed.

Born in Boston on October 25, 1936, Jim was the son of James and Emma (Herbst) Watson, founders of Watson Mailing Company in Boston’s Fort Point. The eldest of four, Jim grew up in North Quincy with his three sisters, graduating from North Quincy High School in 1954, followed by a B.A. in History (1958) and an M.A. in Government (1961) from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. 

Jim’s sixty-year career as an urban and regional planner began with the Boston Redevelopment Authority in 1961, where, encouraged to pursue his Master’s in City Planning at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, he graduated in 1966. Soon after, Jim and family packed the station wagon, moving to Berkley, California to join the Oakland Planning Department for President Lyndon Johnson’s Model Cities program. Eventually, missing East Coast families, the Watsons settled in Hingham, Massachusetts. After working for Boston consulting firms Whitman and Howard and Parsons Brinckerhoff, Jim found his career home in the public sector as Comprehensive Planning Supervisor with Old Colony Planning Council, one of Massachusetts regional planning agencies. A reluctant retiree, Jim worked until he was 79.

A man of vast curiosity and interests—Jim loved sailing, live music, books, politics, cities, gardening, swimming, cycling, and photography. Constants included a love of family and wide-ranging conversation, his career, and service as a compassionate, concerned, engaged citizen.  

Settling in Hingham in 1972 saw the beginning of Jim’s five decades of civic service. A committed conservationist, Jim was an active member of the Conservation Commission, while his abiding concern for low-income housing led to his elected tenure with the Hingham Housing Authority. Jim’s interest in the democratic process was global and local—he traveled to Nicaragua to observe elections, while as a member of the Democratic Town Committee, he loved creating floats for Hingham’s 4th of July parade. An ardent lover of live music, Jim oversaw the Coffee House off the Square for many years—enjoying booking the musicians and never turning down an emcee opportunity. An avid conversationalist, James loved nothing more than to catch up with friends, neighbors, and family, happily conversing on any topic. Proud of his large, curated, library, his vinyl records, and his art collection—including work by his mother, a student of Boston’s Museum School—his home celebrated all of these.

Jim was the devoted father of three daughters: Johanna M. “Joie” Watson of Belmont, Siobhan C. Watson and her husband Michael Follett of Bristol, England, and Caitlin A. DiGiandomenico and her husband Vincent of Marshfield. He was the loving grandfather of Thomas, Tristan, and Serena Watson-Follett, all of Bristol, England; Emily Rose Sullivan of Concord, NH; Harrison Charles Sullivan of Kingston, Lily Marguerite Sullivan of Hanson, the late Bronson Martin Curley, Brailey, and Bianca Murphy, both of Whitman. Jim was the big brother to Johanna Watson of Medford, Stephanie Watson of Concord, California, and the late Margaret (Watson) Bryant. He is survived by his former wife, Jeanne Cronin of Cambridge, and a loving family. Funny and bright, Jim was a special person.

A memorial service to celebrate James’s life will be held at 2 PM Sunday, November 20th, at the Old Ship Church, 107 Main Street, Hingham, MA. Reception follows immediately at the Old Ship Church Parish House. 

Memorial contributions in Jim’s name to Doctors Without Borders, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) or Oxfam America Inc.