By Dana Davis, 5th Episcopal District, AME Church
Sitting in a lawn chair wearing a face mask and decked out in a red jacket and tie while waving to passersby, is Mack Watson. “Hi,” he says, as cars decorated with red and black balloons (his favorite colors) drive past honking their horns.
This is a special day for Mr. Watson. The image of a $100 bill taped to his top hat is a clue. Mr. Watson, also lovingly called “Daddy Mack,” turns 100 years old. “This is quite a day. Just think, this is only preliminary, the next 100 years is gonna really be big,” he says, laughing.
So, how does it feel to turn 100? “I don’t know, ‘cause I’ve never been it before,” says Mr. Watson with a laugh.
The socially-distant, drive-by celebration was spearheaded by his home church of 36 years, Bethel AME Church in San Francisco. Mr. Watson loves members of the church body. “And they seem to like me,” he says.
“Bethel is a great church. We have a great pastor and assistant pastor. I think they’re doing a great job,” he says, referring to Pastor Robert Shaw, II and the Rev. Ann Champion Shaw.
Born on July 3, 1920, in Hamlet, Texas, Mr. Watson is a member of the Greatest Generation. He was drafted in 1942 and served during WWII in Okinawa, taking supplies to the front line. After leaving the Army in 1946, he came to the Bay Area and worked as a jitney bus driver for 15 years. He later worked for the Continental Baking Company until his retirement.
Accolades, well wishes, and commendations poured in from family and friends alike. Dignitaries included the Rt. Rev. Clement W. Fugh, the presiding prelate of the 5th Episcopal District; Supervisor Alexia Fugh; the Rev. Cedric V. Alexander, the presiding elder of the San Francisco/Sacramento District; Lady Veronica Alexander; London Breed, the mayor of San Francisco; and Major General Laura L. Yeager, the commander of the California National Guard’s 40th Infantry Division, the first woman to lead a U.S. Army infantry division. “I didn’t really expect that. I really didn’t,” says Mr. Watson of all the attention. “It was a surprise and a pleasant surprise.”
Hoping to have a “big ball” with a dance and dinner party, the pandemic changed things. That was okay with Mr. Watson. He points to his faith. “God is talking and we better listen,” he says. “He’s telling us, and I don’t know how many people are listening, but He’s telling us, get your house in order.”
Mr. Watson says having strong faith in God is important. “God works in mysterious ways,” he says. “You have to have faith. Sometimes you have faith, and it seems like your faith is not working, God is not hearing you. But He’s working on His time, not on your time. And you have to be patient.”
Mr. Watson says he loves people and enjoys being active in the community. Until a few years ago, he was a regular attendee of the Wednesday noon Bible study at Bethel. Before the pandemic, he would walk the block and a half to church from his home. A proud usher for more than 50 years, Mr. Watson is Usher Emeritus, retiring his post from Bethel’s Senior Usher Board. He was named an Outstanding Usher for the California Conference Board of Ushers and rendered service to the United Individual Usher Board. He is also an active member of the Western Addition and Bayview Senior Centers and for the past 67 years, a member of the Prince Hall Bayview Masonic Lodge #64.
Many people have asked and want to know what is the centenarian’s secret to a long life. “The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” Mr. Watson advises.
A wicked sense of humor doesn’t hurt either. “I call myself having a sense of humor,” says Mr. Watson. “That’s what life is all about, in my opinion. You can’t go around with rocks in your jaws. You only live once. And therefore, live that life as best as you possibly can.”
Mr. Watson is in awe that he made it to his 100th birthday. “Every day is a plus,” he says. “God has spared me to live this long, and I never felt in my wildest dreams that I was gonna live this long. I’m still here to tell the story.”