Debbie Watson Dies At Age 45

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This one hits close to home, folks: Debbie Watson, former Power Equipment Trade advertising sales representative from 1992 until fall 2002, died November 28 at age 45 after a long battle with skin cancer. Beautiful and vivacious, Debbie brightened every life she touched—and was a very successful PET ad-selling machine.

For a while she was the sole ad sales rep for PET, and I spent as much time working closely with her as anyone on the Hatton-Brown Publishers staff. She left Hatton-Brown in 1997 and formed her own company, Kaleidoscope Communications, yet continued to sell PET as an independent rep until fall 2002. (And I know she loved that it took two new PET sales reps to replace her!) We made many long rides to Louisville for what is now GIE+EXPO, and every trip was made shorter and much more interesting and lively in her presence.

While Debbie had a personality that could light up a room when she entered, she was also very artistic with drawing and painting and even sculpture. I remember that getting a wrapped gift from Debbie was like

being handed a piece of art you didn’t want to disturb to get to the present inside. On my desk, I still have two simple but striking bookend sculptures she made and gave to me at least 12 years ago when she was taking an art class—simple plaster of Paris figurines of elongated female heads, almost matching, with wide oval eyes that look like something you’d find in a Pharoah’s tomb.

Perhaps that’s what I remember about her most—her generous spirit. On those long trips to Louisville, or maybe to GIE, we’d talk all sorts of business but also about our lives and the world in general, and her kind soul and generosity always shone through. Even before she quit selling PET and began battling cancer, she had become serious about her art, and had several gallery showings in town—yet most of her work likely ended up as gifts in friends’ houses, or donated to charitable groups. Her painting “Decorate Your Days,” which accompanies this post, was selected by the Montgomery Cancer Wellness Foundation for this year’s Holiday Hope Christmas card greeting.

Other things: Back in junior high, Debbie apologized to my future wife for teasing Mary at the school bus stop at Montgomery’s Vaughn Road Elementary School with a nice note she wrote in Mary’s school yearbook—signed very artistically in her maiden name, “Debbie Ballant.” Debbie was also a helluva Auburn University football fan and made a mean batch of orange and blue Jello shooters. Both our first children, born six months apart, are named Mason.

Debbie is survived by her husband, Mike, son Mason, 13, her parents, Fran and August Ballant, and a large host of extended family members and friends. She’ll be sorely missed by all.