“I was brought up that I’m my brother’s keeper.”
So says Albert Watson, Norton’s veterans grave officer. Watson, 84, is following in the footsteps of his father, James Watson, who held the same position years ago. Watson has now been the grave officer for over 50 years.
Watson puts American flags on the veteran’s graves prior to Memorial Day and takes them out after July 4th. He repeats the process prior to Veteran’s Day and removes them after Pearl Harbor Day.
Watson has lived in Norton his entire life. He served in the Navy and William, one of his six children, works with the town’s cemetery department. Watson’s history with the town runs deep. His grandfather’s grandfather, Samuel Thomas Lincoln, donated the land that is now the Winnecunnet Cemetery. Many revolutionary war veterans are buried there.
Watson has a town plan of where every veteran is buried and takes great care in his job. There are nine cemeteries in Norton. Last year, Watson placed 567 flags on graves. He is in charge of 200 flags in the Common Cemetery alone. Selectmen chairman Bradford Bramwell and his grandchildren helped Watson place flags by the graves one weekend. Watson asked Bramwell’s grandson to place a flag by a couple of stones a few rows down and gave the names of the soldiers buried there.
"He knew the names of the soldiers. It was like he was going by to say hello to old friends,” said Bramwell, who dubbed Watson an unsung hero. He was spot on.
“All of my friends are there,” Watson says of the deceased veterans.
Watson worked as a toolmaker at the Bay State Tap and Die plant in Mansfield before retiring. At one time, he was the district commander for all of the American Legion’s Bristol County. He currently is a member of the Berkeley American Legion and has been in a Legion branch for 66 years.
“The Berkeley Legion runs a lot of functions to raise money for the district,” Watson said. “I help out with barbeques and clam boils. The post believes by actions what the legion was founded for.”
Watson, who by his own admission is a private person, said that veterans often withstand trauma during their service and he feels he is doing his part to respect that by attending to the graves.
"He's going to be a hard person to replace," Bramwell said. "He deserves a great deal of thanks from all of us."