Peter Ficke Watzek

Funeral services for Peter Ficke Watzek, 98, a long time resident of Greenville will be at 10:00 a.m., Saturday, July 20, 2013 at St. James Episcopal Church.  He died on July 14, 2013.  Burial will be in Greenville Cemetery under the direction of Boone Funeral Home, Greenville.
He was born in Portland, Oregon on November 15, 1914 and grew up in Wauna, Oregon, a small sawmill town on the banks of the Columbia River.  With an upstairs bedroom looking out at the river, he developed a life long interest in the water.  At an early age, he built his first boat and later spent all his spare time on the water.
Peter graduated from the University of Oregon with a business degree.  His sister, two years younger, attended St. Helen’s Hall in Portland and became a close friend of Bettybelle Tubbs (of Adams, Oregon) who later became his wife.
Starting in 1900, his grandfather had joined others from Davenport, Iowa in buying virgin pine timbered land in southeast Arkansas and northeast Louisiana.  This land was developed over the years into a sawmill, wood chemical and papermaking operation in Crossett, Arkansas.  Upon graduation Peter moved with his family from Oregon to Arkansas and worked in all elements of The Crossett Company.
After he had successfully settled significant labor issues in Crossett, he was named President of the company, a post he held until the company was sold to Georgia Pacific in 1961.  Under his leadership this company became the largest industrial operation in Arkansas and he was called upon to aid the commercial development of the state as the head of the State Chamber of Commerce and of the Arkansas Manufacturers Assn.  He served as a director of the American Forestry Association from 1965 – 1994 and was its President from 1965 – 1967.  He had grown up in the Episcopal Church, worked closely with the Bishop of the Diocese of Arkansas and was a participant in the formation and construction of an Episcopal Church in Crossett.  He was a Rotarian for over 60 years and a founding member and President of the Crossett Rotary Club.  He later was awarded a Doctor of Civil Law honorary degree from the University of the South (Sewanee) and a Doctor of Laws honorary degree from the University of Arkansas.
When the owners of the Crossett operation sold the company to Georgia Pacific, he moved his family to the town he had come to love, Greenville, MS, where he had kept a boat at the Greenville Yacht Club for many years.  He built a home on upper Lake Ferguson, and derived great pleasure from his involvement in the Greenville Ski Club where he taught many Greenville youngsters to ski.
Since much of his Arkansas civic activity had been directed in business development and Chamber of Commerce type work, in Greenville he decided to shift to charitable activity.  He worked diligently for the Boy Scouts and received both Silver Beaver and Silver Antelope awards.  As a Salvation Army Board Member he led a drive to raise the funds to build the Salvation Army building.
Having decided the United Way offered extremely wide spread benefits, he worked on a number of its committees and was honored with the United Way President’s Award and the Volunteer of the Year Award.  Other volunteer work included the King’s Daughter Hospital and the American Red Cross where he received the Clara Barton Award.  When he felt the Greenville Cemetery needed more greenery, he secured and personally planted over 300 native cedar trees.   In 1996, he was awarded the Jake Stein Community Achievement Award.
But for all his accomplishments, Peter remained a humble man, caring more for his community and its residents than he did for any recognition.  He was always ready to assist anyone or any worthy cause and spent much of his later years as a mentor in the Reading Buddies program at the Carrie Stern elementary school.  He faithfully attended St. James Episcopal Church and the Rotary Club, which he so loved.
Peter was pre-deceased by an infant son David Harlan Watzek and his other son John Aubrey Watzek of Monroe, Louisiana; his wife Betty of 55 years; and his sister Frances Warren of Eugene, Oregon.   He leaves two daughters, Nancy Nix of Dallas, Texas, and Joan Strickland of Windermere, Florida, nine grandchildren and 20 great grandchildren.  He relished his role as the patriarch of this extended family, caring for each person in a very personal and individual way.  He was indeed the rock upon which his family was built. 
The family will receive friends from 4:30-6:00 p.m., Friday, July 19, 2013 at St. James Episcopal Church.  The family requests memorials be made to United Way of Washington County, Post Office Box 115, Greenville, MS 38702.