Major William Wayne Watkins, 78, of Chipley, passed peacefully into the arms of God at his home Sunday, 5 Feb 17. His hard fought battle against Burkitt Lymphoma, due to exposure to Agent Orange used in Vietnam, was incredibly courageous.
Wayne was born 12 Nov 38, to Kathleen and Frank B. Watkins in Opelika, AL, and moved to Panama City when he was three years of age. He attended Panama Grammar School and was graduated from Bay High School in 1956. Wayne’s happy boyhood was spent in St. Andrews where he lived on Mound Avenue and had many happy memories in downtown Panama City as well that he cherished and reminisced about often. After graduation, Wayne was active in the National Guard and attended William Carey College in Hattiesburg, MS, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in 1963.
After working in the field of marine biology, Wayne joined the United States Army in 1966 as an officer, where he trained as a helicopter pilot before being deployed to Vietnam as a Aeromedical Evacuation Pilot. He served his country from 1967-1968 in the Vietnam War and was involved in some of the most intense battles and was wounded himself while evacuating severely injured troops. For his service, Wayne received the Purple Heart, and Bronze Star Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with one Silver Star and one Bronze Star, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm, Combat Medical Badge, Army Service Ribbon, Master Army Aviator Badge, National Defense Service Medal, Meritorious Unit Commendation, Air Medal. After the Vietnam War ended, Wayne continued his military career at Fort Rucker, AL, where he was the commander of “Flat Iron” and became an instructor pilot, training many new helicopter pilots to serve our country.
Wayne chose an early, honorable retirement in 1984 to pursue his boyhood dream of owning his beloved Oaks Farm. He spent a number of years developing and restoring the land he so loved. His restoration work of the farm’s natural ecosystems relative to vegetation and water conservation earned him the “Outstanding Conservationist of the Year” Award in 2001.
In 1996, he married Cynthia Calloway Watkins and together, their love for conservation led them to foundSeacrest Wolf Preserve, Inc.a work of wolf and wildlife conservation in 1999. Wayne spent 18 years passionately, devotedly and sacrificially as a dedicated conservationist for this cause. He was loved, respected, and admired by all who knew him and his great faith in God was always the source of his courage and strength. William Wayne Watkins was a true hero who loved his country and was a great, passionate patriot. He was a profound visionary man whose dreams and visions will live on to touch the lives of many for the greater good of our country, planet and mankind.