TORRINGTON – From being a small business owner, to a teacher, to a volunteer firefighter and founding Gracie’s Promise – a charitable organization that has helped over 80 families through some of the most difficult times imaginable – Bud Watson perfectly embodies what it takes to earn the City of Torrington’s Community Hero Award.
But still, even as he stood at the podium in the council chambers Tuesday night with tears in his eyes and his award in his hands, Watson used his platform to honor others.
“I didn’t earn it,” he said. “I have a board of eight or nine people all of the time that work endlessly. I have a family that has been with me. They have worked as hard as me. The award goes to them, not to me.”
Watson told the assembly that he has volunteers all over Wyoming, Nebraska and Colorado that keep Gracie’s Promise alive. It’s named after his granddaughter, who was diagnosed with leukemia in 2009 and beat it in 2014. The organization helps families with the financial burdens associated with a sick child and seeks – as much as it can, anyway – to help put those families at ease.
He cited volunteer groups in Kearney, Neb., Castle Rock, Colo., Denver, Colo., Greeley, Colo., as well as groups in Cheyenne, Rawlins, Casper and Worland – and of course Torrington – as the people who he said should be recognized.
“What I’m really saying is that this award really belongs to a really large group of volunteers,” he said. “The group of volunteers I do not want to forget is Torrington. The business people in this town are behind you 100 percent at whatever you want to go on. The help, the manpower that we’ve acquired from them to raise awareness for Gracie’s Promise is just amazing.”
Despite Watson’s humility, Torrington Mayor Randy Adams, who presented the award, said Watson is exactly what the TCC looks for in a Community Hero.
“Community Heroes are people in the community who go out of their way to help other people,” Adams said. “A lot of these individuals are better known as volunteers and you’ve seen them helping their friends or neighbors.
“They are athletic coaches, they are church leaders, to people who take care of the elderly, to members of the downtown business community. They go out of the way and give their time and effort to improve the community.”
Adams praised Watson’s efforts through Gracie’s Promise.
“He has dedicated most of his time and energy, as well as his own money, to create and perpetuate an example of people working hard for a cause to give back to those in financial need,” Adams said.
Watson is a 1955 graduate of Lingle High School. He married his wife, Virginia, in 1957. He opened his own HVAC business, Watson Refrigeration, in 1966 and had four children. He also served as the chief of the Torrington Volunteer Fire Department and taught HVAC at Eastern Wyoming College. He’s a renowned wildlife painter, as well – but Adams said his work with Gracie’s Promise made him a Community Hero.
“Thanks to his tireless work, money was raised and donations were made,” Adams said.