In Memory

Mike Watling

Mike Watling

We just received word from Mike's wife Ruth that Mike passed away a year ago April from complications from Lyme disease. She commented that on the one hand Mike's lifestyle hastened his demise, but on the other hand he was a lot of fun to be with. That sums up Mike pretty well. We will update this with a full obituary when we receive it. Mike was one of the more unique members of the class. You could never be sure if he was expounding on some intellectual premise that only he was truly aware of, or if he was 'spoofing' you to the limit of ordinary people.

Mike was a sculptor in Palm Dessert CA for many years. Several of his items are featured in the city's Art Tour. You can view one of these items here. Use the website's forward and back buttons to view more of Mike's work.

The website offers this biography of Mike:

Michael Watling was born in Kansas City in 1946 to a family of artists and musicians. He has carried on that tradition with his family and studio in the Santa Rosa Mountains. He pursued college in Kansas City, Missouri; Tempe, Arizona; and northern California, ultimately arriving in the mountains where he has his studio today. Works in stone draw form from the mountains around us, while neoglyphs indicate inspiration from the early Cahuilla. His bronzes are striking abstractions, enlarged to fill the senses with their form and movement. His steel and stone sculptures are compositions, which reflect whimsy and thoughtful introspection.

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04/01/14 12:24 PM #1    

Suzette Parrick (Felder)

I dated Mike for about a year. He was so much fun and smart I really enjoyed our friendship. I have wondered for years about him. Sad to hear

08/27/14 01:08 AM #2    

Pete Silverman

I remember Mike Watling. He was quite funny and smart and curious. He would sequentially ask our chemistry teacher, Mr. Grey, “why?” over and over until Mr. G would throw his hands in the air and say “Because God made it that way!” And Mike would smile.

For a time Mike drove an old Ford vertible, that is a convertible with no top at all. On the dash was a small official-looking plaque that read “Custom made for Dick Berger”. I was never sure if that was a joke or if there really was a Mr. Berger.

 In 1970 newlywed spouse and I were ready to give up two seedy apartments on Troost for a house and the one next door to Mike and Rene was for sale and we persuaded the owner to rent it to us. Living next door was quite wonderful; we spent virtually all of our time together. My wife would play our old upright piano while Mike played dulcimer and Rene sang, generally in falsetto and off-key, or played a recorder. “Boil Them Cabbage Down” may have been the only tune they had in common, and it got better and better as the Ripple and Boone’s Farm dwindled.

Each family already had a dog when we were jointly adopted by another one that we called Spot Watling and they called Lorenzo Silverman. A one-eyed hound that consistently rolled in the vilest stuff he could find; often you could smell him coming before you saw him. But he made us laugh.

The Watlings also had an Old English Sheepdog named Ezra. Whenever we walked around our neighborhood Ezra would throw a hump into the deer lawn statue that was outside the garden ornaments store on Prospect. Also at any time into anyone that used Irish Spring soap.

Weekday mornings Michael of Tempe mounted his trusty steed, an old Vespa bought, borrowed or stolen from Tom Hastings, and rode off to his job as a gardener. Early manifestation of his very successful fascination with horticulture and landscaping, I suppose.

We moved to Louisville after a year or two of being next door, and a few months later Mike and Rene lived in their camper in our backyard there for a bit before heading West.

I have so many fine memories of Mike.

-Pete Silverman

written 4/2/2014

08/31/14 10:48 AM #3    

Tom Hastings

Mike was one of the most interesting people I have known, if not THE most interesting.  He kept life interesting in high school, and welcomed this shy kid into the group, whomever that was over the years.  He practiced, or maybe invented, "doin' your own thing".  Before becoming the sculptor mention in his obit, he worked in San Fransisco running a jack hammer for the utility company, later started a successful nursery business in the LA area, then showed up in Palm Desert, CA teaching horticulture at a community college. He became a certified arborist, a tree expert, during that time.  The last time I caught up with him was in the 2003-07 time frame, and he had become the sculptor mentioned in the obit. He had always wanted to be a welder, so I suspect the large metal creations he sometimes made filled that old desire.

He was also (in high school) the creator of the "No Soap" joke, a gag whichever of us reprobates happened to be along at the moment played on the next victim.  It was a nonsensical story, which ended with a polar bear floating by on an ice floe, and saying "No Soap".  The tellers would break into hysterical laughter,but just long enough to lure the victim into laughing too.  At that point, everyone would stop and say "What are you laughing about?"  It was all in fun, and the victim became part of the gang of perpetrators from then on.


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