Upcoming Celebration of Life to be Held in Memory of Don Watkinds


Don Watkinds (66) tragically passed away over the summer, while coaching on deck in San Diego. Family, friends, colleagues, and swimmers of Watkinds are invited to a celebration of life on October 21st from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. at the Kearny Mesa Recreation Center in San Diego, California. Please RSVP either by responding to the event notice on Don’s Facebook page or sending an email message to Gail Dummer (dummer@msu.edu) with the number of people who will attend.

What are the Plans?

  • Everyone is welcome to share their memories of Don. Remember Don’s sense of humor as you think about what to say. For example, consider starting with a “Howdy, Howdy” introduction; dress like Don and imitate him; write a poem about Don (e.g., “There once was a coach named Don …); tell a corny Don-style joke (e.g., “Did you hear about the broken pencil? There’s no point!); or create a song about Don. It’s perfectly okay if you just want to say that Don was an important person in your life and that you miss him.
  • Swimmers are encouraged to describe the most memorable swimming workouts and games (tortures?) that Don asked them to complete. Don’s fellow coaches also are welcome to contribute.
  • Swimmers should also describe dryland (out-of-the-water) exercises and games that were part of Don’s workouts. Basketball must be mentioned. Attendees may be asked to participate in some of these activities if time and weather permit, so bring any equipment that may be needed.

What to Bring? Light refreshments will be provided. Contact Jana Perkins (onedog2many@icloud.com) if you wish to contribute food or drinks. Lawn chairs and sports equipment will be useful if you wish to enjoy the park after the Celebration of Life.

Kearny Mesa Recreation Center: We will have access to an indoor facility as well as the adjacent park. Directions: From Interstate 163 north or Interstate 805 north take the Mesa College Drive exit and turn left. Follow Mesa College Drive until you see the park at the end of the street. Turn left on Armstrong Street and look for the parking lot.

Remembering Don Watkinds:

  • Donate to the Challenged Athletes Foundation in Don’s name. Follow the online instructions at http://support.challengedathletes.org/DonWatkindsMemorial. Donations made in Don’s memory will be used to fund grant requests from swimmers with disabilities at all levels — from beginners to Paralympic hopefuls – because in the water, we are all the same.
  • Contribute to the Go Fund Me campaign to support the Wave House San Diego Swim Team that Don coached. Follow the instructions at https://www.gofundme.com/wave-house-swim-team.
  • Watch Don’s Facebook page for information about a possible memorial scholarship for a deserving San Diego- Imperial swimmer.


Read Watkinds full obituary below:

Donald Harold Watkinds, age 66, of San Diego died of a heart attack on 27 July 2017. Don was doing what he loved best, on deck, coaching young members of the Wave House San Diego Swim Club at the City Heights Swim Center in San Diego.

Don was born in Brawley CA on 6 May 1951 to Erma and Harold Watkinds, and lived in Calipatria during his youth. He attended Calipatria High School, and subsequently earned an undergraduate degree at California Western University in San Diego.

Don forged an exemplary career as a swimming coach. Although he coached at several locations in northern and southern California over the years, at the time of his death Don was coaching the Wave House San Diego Swim Club and a Wounded Warriors group at the Navy Medical Facility in San Diego. His swimmers achieved much success at the Paralympic Games, USA Swimming national, zone, and local competitions. Several earned college scholarships and some honored his memory by themselves becoming swimming coaches. Watkinds received numerous awards, including the Ikkos Award from the U.S. Olympic Committee for coaching swimmers who medaled at the Paralympic Games, the Disability Swimming Service Award from USA Swimming, and an Outstanding Service Award from Southern California Swimming. But the most meaningful accolades are from his swimmers and fellow coaches: “Don approached the sport with joy, laughter, and creativity;” “Don was the most integral person in my life apart from my own parents;” “You shaped our lives and helped us become great athletes, teammates, and friends;” “I will remember Don most of all for the love, pride, and advocacy he showed for each of his swimmers;” “Few men were greater in our sport than Don Watkinds, he let his ego take a back seat to what he was willing to do for his athletes.” “If I know him, he probably will be coaching in heaven.”

Don is survived by cousins Lois Brister, Karen Cronin, Lynn Heinbokel, and Bruce Young; close lifelong friends Brad and Linda Bodell, Matthew and Katie Bodell, Nathan Bodell and Annie Bodell, and four grandchildren; as well as the legion of swimmers he coached throughout the years who are his swimming family. He was predeceased by his parents Erma Savage Watkinds and Harold K. Watkinds, and a sister Paula Sue Watkinds who died in infancy.

A private graveside service will be held at date to be determined at Riverview Cemetery in Brawley CA. Additional information about services will be posted on the San Diego-Imperial Swimming web site (www.si-swimming.org) as information becomes available. Memorial donations in Don’s name may be sent to the Challenged Athletes Foundation (http://support.challengedathletes.org/DonWatkindsMemorial).

Information courtesy of Gail Dummer.