By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
A local real estate broker and longtime community member has died of leukemia after struggling with the West Nile virus last fall.
Hi-Line native Lyle Watson, 75, co-founder of Flynn Realty and owner of Law Realty, died Saturday in Havre.
Watson was diagnosed with West Nile virus in the fall of 2003 and in October was in a coma for two weeks with encephalitis as a result. Doctors at the time gave him a 10 percent chance of recovery. When Watson did recover, he said he had to learn to do simple tasks again, like walking, talking and even swallowing.
Watson was the eighth person in Hill County to be diagnosed with the disease. While he was in the hospital being treated for West Nile, he was diagnosed with leukemia.
Family members said they think Watson may have been weakened by his bout with West Nile.
"The West Nile, I believe, contributed to his death," said Watson's son, Roger Watson, 47.
He said he thinks the leukemia could have been treated more effectively if his father had not had West Nile.
"I think it's necessary that people are aware how serious (West Nile virus) is. It certainly had an impact on all of our lives during this last year."
"I think it probably weakened Lyle somewhat, but he didn't die from the Nile," said Watson's wife, Jean Watson, 73. "He died from leukemia. But he was in a weaker state, I think."
"He never really did regain his strength after that," she added.
Watson's family members remembered him this morning as a principled man who worked hard to keep his family and his community strong.
After returning from the Army in 1948, Watson helped establish Flynn Realty in Havre in the early 1950s, Jean Watson said. In the 1970s he founded Law Realty in Havre. He worked as a real estate broker and appraiser for Law Realty and Watson Appraising until he became ill with West Nile virus. "Our family's so close. It always has been. Even though we live in different parts of the country, it's like we live here in town," because of his father, Roger Watson said. "Our family's real close to each other, and he taught us that."
He and Kathi Hanson, 52, the eldest of Watson's three daughters, recalled their father taking time to spend time with them when they were children. Roger Watson recalled learning to hunt and fish with his father, and Hanson recalled her father helping her break her horse when the family lived for a short time on the family farm in Gildford.
Hanson also said her father was very involved in the community. He was an avid local historian and preservationist, and was one of the founders of Havre Beneath the Streets. He also was one of a group of people working to restore the Eye of the Needle, a rock formation near Fort Benton. "When he worked for (Havre) Beneath the Streets, he felt it was such a boost for Havre, Montana," Jean Watson said. "He felt they needed something - an incentive for people to come to Havre and enjoy our town. He just believed in working for his town and surrounding area."
She also recalled when Watson served on a steering committee in 1962 preparing for a celebration commemorating the founding of Havre and Hill County, and helped stage a train robbery in Havre on horseback for the festivities. A member of the local Elks and Eagles clubs, Watson also served for several years as parade chair for the annual music festival parade in Havre and was a charter member of the local chapter of Toastmasters, she said.