Ron Watson, Scarborough politician known as ‘mayor of Agincourt’ and local history buff, dies aged 89

Some people just like you instantly and Ron Watson, an elected Scarborough politician for more than four decades, was one of those people, according to a former mayor of the city.

“He was innocent, he was pleasant, he smiled. He was just good with people,” Paul Cosgrove said of Watson, who died on April 10 at the age of 89.

Watson was elected to the school board of the former borough in 1964 and then served as alderman for Ward 10, then encompassing all of Scarborough north of Highway 401, from 1966 to 1978, when he ran for mayor against Gus Harris and lost.

After spending some time writing a book and columns for the Scarborough Mirror, Watson returned to office as a Scarborough councilor in 1987, serving for another decade before merging with Toronto in 1998.

Many called him the “mayor of Agincourt” and Cosgrove, at a ceremony renaming a local park after Watson in 2005, called his friend the “best mayor Scarborough never had”.

Known for his dry sense of humor, Watson also had a keen sense of Scarborough’s history. He kept newspaper clippings and other materials in his filing cabinets in the basement and retrieved anything he thought might be useful.

“He was a walking library,” Cosgrove recalls.

At six feet tall, Watson entered politics as a local president of Young Progressive Conservatives, when he picked up John Diefenbaker from the airport before the PC leader became prime minister, his son Chris Watson said.

Married to wife Verna almost 66 yearsWatson was a draftsman and worked for a Scarborough company that sold drafting machines and materials. In retirement he drew Toronto Maple Leafs goalkeepers and his grandchildren in charcoal.

He wrote Keep them rolling, a history of Spadina Roundhouse in Toronto, where his father, Harry Watson, had worked as a mechanic’s assistant. The book, published in 1984, was illustrated with photographs by Harry Watson.

On April 5, 1934, Harry had photographed the yards and downtown from the roof of what is now the Fairmont Royal York Hotel.

His son wanted to do the same and, 88 years later, was barely winding when he climbed to the roof of the hotel, now surrounded by a chasm of taller buildings, Chris Watson said.

“He was the luckiest man in the world.”

Watson died of abdominal aortic aneurysm five days later.

Flags at Toronto’s Scarborough Civic Center and City Hall have been flown at half-mast for five days.

Jennifer McKelvie, a Scarborough councillor, was with Watson during the Royal York visit, which she helped arrange after seeing the photos of Harry Watson.

“It was a great adventure and I loved listening to Ron’s stories about his family and Scarborough,” said McKelvie.

“His humor and warm smile will be missed.”

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