Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Willa Dean Watkins

Mrs. Willa Dean Watkins, 82, passed away on January 15, 2020, at Baptist-Golden Triangle Hospital in Columbus, MS. Funeral services will be held at 1:00 P.M. on Friday, January 17th, at Porter Funeral Home, with Rev. Mike Childs officiating. Visitation will be Friday from 11:00 A.M. until service time at the funeral home. Interment will be Sunday at Oak Hill Cemetery in Griffin, GA. Porter Funeral Home of Louisville, MS, is in charge of arrangements. 

Dean was born February 11, 1937, in Sargent, Georgia, and moved to Griffin at a very early age. She was a 1955 graduate of Griffin High School, where she was an honor student a star athlete, having been installed in the Griffin Hall of Fame as a basketball player and offered an opportunity to play semi-pro basketball with the Atlanta Blues. After coming to Louisville, she began work for Taylor Machine Works, and retired after 42 years as Director of Human Resources. During her career, Mrs. Watkins served on the Board of Directors of the State of Mississippi Individual Self-Insured Workers Compensation Guaranty Fund; and was an invaluable longtime member of the Board of Directors of the Mississippi Association of Self-Insurers (MASI), served as President of the board from 2008-2009 and received the designation as a workers compensation professional from MASI and the first Friends of MASI award. She was the second recipient of the Sam Cox Spirit Award for her contributions to the workers compensation industry. She was a member of the Golden Triangle Human Resources Association and earned the association's certification as a professional in human resources and served as its president in 2002. Mrs. Watkins was a member of the Business and Professional Women's Association for many years and served as president of the Louisville association and as the state president from 2002 through 2003; and, being a steadfast advocate for children's care, Mrs. Watkins also served on the Board of Directors for Reach Out Services in Columbus, Mississippi, which provides services for abused and neglected children in the area. A firm believer in education, she served as chairman of the group which organized PTA in the Louisville Public Schools and was an active member of the school systems' Drop Out Prevention program. In addition to her many professional and community activities, Mrs. Watkins was a member of the Red Hills Art Foundation and was highly supportive of the Winston County Library as a member of the Friends of the Library. Mrs. Watkins was one of nine women throughout the state who were presented with the prestigious Governor's Power of One Award, which is given in recognition of women throughout the state who have made a difference both personally and professionally in the lives of others. An avid participant in the political process, Mrs. Watkins was presently serving as President of the Winston County Republican Women and was recently elected Chair of the Winston County Republican Party. Throughout the years, Mrs. Watkins has served in a variety of positions in different occupations, including: banking; the Georgia Crime Lab; Secretary to the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army in Hawaii; and working for U.S. General Pence, who was a Lt. Colonel and Commander of the all Japanese Army during World War II.

After her retirement, she enjoyed practicing Tai Chi, attending antique auctions, reading, and spending time with her two children and their families.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Zera and Joe Henley Beall; and two brothers, Edward Beall and Hugh Beall.

She is survived by two sons, Rick (Marsha) Eaves of Louisville, and Kenny (Brenda) Eaves of Brandon, MS; a brother, Frank Beall of Caledonia, MS; a sister-in-law, Shirley Beall of Griffin, GA; two grandchildren, Adrienne (Stephen) Mercer and Joshua Goodin; and three great grandchildren, Clay, Fletcher, and Millie Kate Mercer.

Memorials may be made to charity of your choice.