CLARKS SUMMIT — Melodies echoed throughout downtown Clarks Summit on Friday, Nov. 20, as choirs from three local churches reminded the community the holiday season has arrived.
The Heritage Christmas Ensemble, Candlelight Choir and the Clarks Green Assembly of God Carolers warmed up the crowd before Clarks Summit resident Warren Watkins, 83, flipped the switch that illuminated the community tree next to the clock tower.
Live music, free children’s crafts and the tree lighting were held in conjunction with opening night of the Abington Business & Professional Association (ABPA) Home for the Holidays Open House Weekend.
“It was a great celebration and a wonderful way to start the holiday season,” Watkins said. “My feelings Friday night were one of great appreciation.”
He was appointed Citizen of the Year at a Rotary Club of the Abingtons meeting on Thursday, Nov. 5 during which Mayor Patty Lawler was a guest.
“During her talk I was eating my dessert,” said Watkins. “When finished (with her remarks), she (Lawler) made it known that just that morning, I was selected to be the Citizen of the Year. I choked on a mouthful of dessert. It really took me by surprise and at first, I wasn’t certain it might have been a joke. Where else, but in small town U.S.A. could a person be honored for doing what he enjoys most — volunteering and helping the area that I prize so much.”
On Nov. 20, as attendees gathered on the sidewalks to take in the hymns performed by adults and children, Lawler described Watkins as “selfless.”
“So many of our residents throughout this past year suggested that he (Watkins) be recognized,” said Lawler. “He served on council for well over 20 years, 10 of which he was president. He volunteered in every capacity in the Clarks Summit Fire Company well over 50 years. He loves people, he loves helping and he definitely loves our community.”
Watkins’ list of community involvement is extensive. Leadership Lackawanna, Telespond, Meals on Wheels, United Methodist Homes, Clarks Summit State Hospital, Clarks Green Cemetery Association, Clarks Summit Fire Company, Clarks Green United Methodist Church, St. David’s Society of Lackawanna County, ABPA, Senior Citizens Center, AKZO Salt Company Retirees Association and the Salvation Army are among the organizations Watkins has served. He was also honored with the R. Matthew Burne Lifetime of Service Award.
He was born in Scranton, but Watkins said his father’s employment “got us moving all over eastern Pennsylvania and southern New York.” Finally, when his father took over the family business in Taylor, he and his family moved to Clarks Summit.
After college and a tour of duty with the Army, rather than return home to Clarks Summit, Watkins moved to Pittsburgh, but realized after riding a train to work each day, “big city-type living and working wasn’t for me.”
“For some reason I wanted to go on my own even though returning home would have been easy,” he said. “I suddenly realized riding a train to work each day wasn’t ‘my bag.’ I had an opportunity to come back to small town living in Clarks Summit where I felt most comfortable.”
Fifty-five years later, Watkins said moving back to the Abingtons was the “best move I ever made. There’s no place like home.”
He currently lives across the street from his family homestead, where he said “a lot of memories continue.”
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