Peter Watson, the former Gloucester Daily Times editor and lifelong newsman who died Saturday at 73, is being remembered as one who inspired a generation of journalists, not just through his newsroom leadership, but also through friendships, many of which lasted a lifetime.
He nurtured hundreds of interns and reporters who passed through the doors of the Times and its parent Essex County Newspapers, and many of them even lived at his sprawling dark blue Victorian house on Granite Street in Rockport.
There, he and his late wife, Patricia, provided not just a house but a home, drawing the young writers into conversation or taking them for a swim in the nearby quarry. But whether at work or at play, his legacy lives on in the lives of writers across the country.
Watson served as editor of the Times from 1970 to 1983, although he remained involved throughout his career even after he moved up the executive ladder of the newspaper chain. He retired as general manager of Essex County Newspapers in 2002.
Watson was also known for his physical prowess; he ran up Mount Washington, and skied down its Tuckerman’s Ravine after hiking up the mountain with his ski gear. He was an avid sailor and played quarterback for more than 15 years at Sunday morning football games at Evans Field.
In recent interviews with Watson and those he worked with, a story unfolds of a complicated man whose life was driven by giving the community the best a local newspaper could offer and supporting the public’s right to know.
“The Gloucester Times and Watson launched many careers,” said Lisa Miller, a Times intern in 1978 who now directs the journalism program at the University of New Hampshire. “For years, journalism interns from the University of New Hampshire worked for the Times. Pat and Peter treated us like family and helped us through the ups and downs of the internship. We were lucky to get to know Rockport and Gloucester through them. Many of us found our calling during the internship.”