Zion-Benton Times - Community News - Your Life

Sadie Watts Celebrates 100th Birthday


November 2, 2018

Sadie Watts Blow Out Candles

It was cold that night in Leighton, Alabama October 26, 1918. The doctor had been summoned to the tidy, but small shotgun house to deliver a baby that would be born pre-mature. The female infant was so tiny and feeble, that it hardly cried, and the doctor gave up hope.

"She won't survive the night," the country physician told her parents with dry distaste as he pronounced her demise. "Just dig a hole out in the back yard and bury her."

But the loving mother could not give up on her newborn that easy. She nestled the struggling baby in her nurturing breast and gave the child everything that she could to keep Sadie alive...at least through the night.

That was 100 years ago. The doctor who pronounced gloom and doom over Sadie Watts is himself dead and gone. But Sadie, she is still alive and has memories to share and a rich legacy of love and community service that speaks for itself.

After living 20 years in the deep south, Sadie moved to Waukegan, Illinois in 1938 to a small shanty on Water Street near the then poverty-stricken Market Street area. Two years later, she married Dement Depreist Watts and they had one daughter, Phyllis. Dement Depreist was a soldier in World War II. He was a good husband and provider. Together, Sadie and Dement built a beautiful life. He died in 1998.

Sadie worked in numerous capacities over the years. She served as a truancy officer. She worked for the Community Action Project. And she worked at Glenkirk, a facility which provides services for individuals with disabilities.

While making a living, Watts made life a joy for many people. Throughout her life, Sadie was an inspiring mentor full of wisdom, blessing and encouraging everyone she encountered. She is one of the founding members of Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church of Zion. Mt Zion is the first African American church in Zion. Deacon Amos Taylor, a life-long member, tells the story of how Watts went from door to door encouraging people to attend as the congregation grew. He testified to her tenacity as a Christian soldier at her 100th Birthday party held at Mt. Zion on October 26, 2018.

Taylor says that Watts was a community leader that was well respected.

"When there was something going on, she was heard!" said Taylor.

At that celebration, community leaders like former NBA legend Billy McKinney spoke about how Sadie made a difference in their lives, simply by the life that she lived.

"She was like a mother to all the kids in the neighborhood. She helped with all the discipline that we needed to be successful in the world," Billy McKinney reflected. "She made sure that when we stepped out of the house, we represented our community, family and race the right way."

McKinney, now a Zion City Commissioner, read a resolution proclaiming October 26, 2018, Sadie Watts Day in the City of Zion.

Zion Township Supervisor Cheri Neal shared with the audience that Sadie Watts was a mentor and friend and that she cherished the moments that they shared drinking black tea with brown sugar.

Mary Ross-Cunningham, a Lake County Board Member, recalled the Watts family saying that their families were close. Cunningham shared that Sadie was a member of the Profiles in Excellence Committee. Cunningham also presented a resolution from the County naming October 26, 2018 as Sadie Watts Day in Lake County.

Pastor Robert Williams said that Sadie was full of wisdom and a fine example of a virtuous woman.

Sadie Watts with Elected Officials

Sadie Watts has served on several boards including the Department of Housing and Urban Development Board, and the Illinois Department of Aging. She was the Chairman of the Zion Human Relations Commission, and she started one of the first food pantries in Lake County from the garage of her home.

Sadie has earned several awards including the NAACP Community Service Award, the Women's Coalition of Lake County Community Service Award, the Baha Award for promoting harmony, tolerance and understanding between various racial, ethnic, cultural and religious people, and she earned the Most Influential African American of Lake County Civic Leadership Award.

Sadie has attended Moody Bible Institute, Trinity Christian College, American Baptist Theological Seminary and Carthage College where she received a Bachelor

of Arts in Sociology in 1974.

-Story by Lue Lewis and Elroy Reed


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