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Community mourns loss, celebrates life of beloved doctor
Curtis Watkins Bench (Web).jpg
Dr. William Curtis Watkins Sr. (front, far right) sits on a bench dedicated in his honor in September 2015, surrounded by his family. Watkins passed away Jan. 18 at the age of 87. (C-I file photo)

Family and friends gathered Tuesday to mourn the loss and celebrate the life of Dr. William Curtis Watkins Sr., who passed away Friday, Jan. 18 at the age of 87.

A pediatrician who practiced for some 27 years in Camden, Dr. Watkins is remembered by former patients -- and their parents alike -- for his love of and unwavering dedication to the health and well-being of the children of Kershaw County.

The following is just a sample of many comments made by people offering condolences in person and via guestbook:

“I’ve never known any man who left a positive mark on so many lives.”

“He was the model for a dedicated, compassionate, and hard-working doctor. So many mothers in Camden were comforted and helped by his wisdom and care in raising their children.”

“Dr. Watkins was a kind and gracious man. His service to our family and the families Kershaw County will forever be remembered.”

“Dr. Watkins was my doctor and my daughter’s doctor. He was not only a great doctor, but he was a precious soul and friend to so many.”

His son, William Curtis “Billy” Watkins Jr., summed up what his father’s legacy meant to him: “I might have been physically bigger, but I can only hope and pray I can someday be even half the man he was.”

Dr. Watkins was born in Lee County on April 12, 1931, a son of the late Eddie Lee and Emmie Moise Pate Watkins. He graduated from Bishopville High School in 1947 and received a B.S. degree in Pharmacy from the University of South Carolina in 1953. He would earn his doctor of medicine degree from the Medical College of South Carolina in 1957. He completed specialty training in Pediatrics and additional medicine at the Medical College of Virginia and the Medical College of Georgia. He began private practice in Conway in 1960 before moving to Camden in 1965. He retired in 1992 after 31 years in private practice.

He met his wife, the late Joyce Arlene Gibbs, while interning at the Medical College of Virginia where she was a student in the school of nursing. They were married for 57 years at the time of her death in 2016. In addition to his wife, he was predeceased by a daughter, Margaret Elizabeth Watkins; four sisters and three brothers.

Dr. Watkins is survived by son, Billy (Kathryn) of Camden; daughter, Kathleen Frazier Watkins Tallis (Frank) of St. Louis; a sister, Emily Watkins Best of Camden; and six grandchildren.

Dr. Watkins will be remembered for many things: a kind and compassionate spirit; a humble, self-effacing personality underpinned by a deep intelligence; a love of sports and all things University of South Carolina; and a keen wit and droll sense of humor.

An example of the latter was noted back in 2015 by long-time friend Jim McGuirt, when the city of Camden honored Dr. Watkins with a Legacy Leadership Bench. Not one for fanfare and spotlight, when he found out about the upcoming honor he objected to the friends who had insisted upon sponsoring the bench. When they stood firm, he merely shook his head and said, “Well, make sure you do it on a cool day.”