Donald L. Watson Sr.

Jul 6, 1927 - Oct 26, 2022

East Lawn Elk Grove Memorial Park
9189 E. Stockton Blvd.
Elk Grove, Ca, 95624


It is with deep sorrow and much love that we mourn the passing of Donald L. Watson, Sr. Don passed away peacefully at his home in Sacramento, California, on October 26, 2022, at the age of 95 years.

He is lovingly remembered by his sons Donald Watson Jr. (wife Pansy) and Darryl Watson (wife Julie), along with seven grandchildren, six great grandchildren, and several nieces and nephews. Don was proceeded in death by his loving wife of 70 years, Wilma, his mother, Getha Jones, father Robert Watson, and his stepfather Roy Jones of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Don was born in Philadelphia, PA and grew up in Bethlehem graduating with honors from Liberty High School where he was class president, point guard on the basketball team and a member of the “Melody Singers”. He then attended Penn State University where he received his degree in Civil Engineering in 1950, being the first one in his family to go to and graduate from college.

He always wanted to live in California so he began his professional career with the Federal Bureau of Reclamation in Fresno, CA. He asked the parents of his childhood sweetheart to send their daughter, Wilma, to California. Her parents happily and lovingly agreed, and Don & Wilma were married in Los Angeles in 1951. They then returned to Fresno where their first son Don Jr. was later born. Don’s distinguished 37-year career with the CA Department of Transportation (Caltrans) began a couple of years later in Los Angeles where their second son Darryl was born. Don and his family were founding members of the Messiah Baptist Church of Los Angeles where he served as Financial Secretary for 17 years.

While at Caltrans he worked his way up the managerial ladder, ultimately reaching the top job of Deputy Director. In 1988 he was named “Black Engineer of the Year”, an award given by the Deans of America’s Historically Black Colleges, for outstanding contributions in science, engineering, and technology. Don also received the prestigious “Alumni Fellow Award” from the College of Engineering at Penn State. Following his retirement at Caltrans, he was appointed by the governor of New Jersey as Executive Director of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority. Don and Wilma moved to Princeton, NJ where they lived for 4 years before returning and officially retiring to Sacramento.

Don’s lifelong interests included his beloved Penn State Nittany Lions football and San Francisco Giants baseball teams. Don and Wilma also traveled the world with family and members of their travel club. He was a true role model for the family and enjoyed telling his life stories to his children and grandchildren during weekly family dinners. He will be deeply missed by his family and friends for his kind heart, sense of humor, generosity and devotion.

A celebration of life service will be held on Thursday, November 10th , at the East Lawn Cemetery Elk Grove Memorial Park located at 9189 E. Stockton Blvd, Elk Grove, CA 95624. The viewing will begin at 9:00 AM with the service to follow at 10:00 AM.

In lieu of flowers, Memorial Donations may be made in Don’s name to the Penn State Alumni Association.


  • Joe Dobrowolski says:

    One of the finest engineers, but a great person; warm, congenial and giving!

  • Wes Lum says:

    I have much respect and admiration for Don. He treated people with respect, kindness, and warmth.

  • Bob Watkins says:

    Don was always a gentleman. He had many stories of his early days in the steel mill and working on the Friend Dam north of Fresno before he joined DOH in District 07. He was a friend to everyone.

  • Linda Haynes says:

    He was a Dad to me, he gave me lots of advice on life, how to be a lady and the type of person to look for in a husband. He would often tell me he was proud of me and he approved and adored my husband. His words are still apart of my life.

  • James A. "JayBee" Brame, Jr. says:

    Don and Pansy,
    We send our deepest condolences to you and your family. We extend our Prayers and love across the miles during this most difficult time.
    J. A. Brame, Jr (Tenisa)

  • JOHN and JUNE says:

    Thoughts, Love and Prayers as we Celebrate the Life and Times of Don Watson Sr. AKA POP-POP! He is with his love Wilma and former Penn State folk.

  • Wanda P Ingraham says:

    Don was my First Cousin and we shared a wonderful
    family. I loved him dearly and will miss him and the
    talks we use to have and the love that he and his wonderful wife, Wilma, showed me through the years.

    Rest In Peace Don – You Will Never Be Forgotten

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