Edwin Truitt Watson, a retired educator and World War II veteran, died of cancer Thursday at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care. The Rodgers Forge resident was 82.
Born and raised in Salisbury, Mr. Watson left home at age 14 and spent several years hopping freight trains -- evidence of his "adventurous spirit," said daughter Theresa Heller of Joppa. "He was a kid who couldn't stand being on a chicken farm."
At 18, he joined the Army and served in Europe in the latter part of World War II.
On Dec. 24, 1944, his company, the 287th Engineers, was taken off the transport ship Leopoldville because of crowding and put on a Belgian cattle boat for transport across the English Channel to Cherbourg, France. A few miles from the French shore, the Leopoldville was torpedoed by a German U-boat and sunk, with nearly 800 lives lost -- including many soldiers Mr. Watson knew.
"He watched the Leopoldville sink with his buddies on board," his daughter said.
Mr. Watson's unit was attached to the forces of Gen. George S. Patton Jr. He subsequently served in Germany with the army of occupation, and was among the troops who liberated Dachau concentration camp.
After the war he moved to Baltimore and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at Loyola College and a master's degree from the Johns Hopkins University.
He taught history at Edmondson High School from 1956 to 1961, at Cardinal Gibbons High from 1961 to 1964, and at Milford Mill High from 1964 until retiring in 1981.
Mr. Watson then became a substitute teacher in Carroll County, and spent much of his time at North Carroll High School.
A 32-year member of Alcoholics Anonymous, he spoke frequently and shared the story of his recovery from dependency.
A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 9:30 a.m. today at St. Pius X Roman Catholic Church, 6428 York Road, where he taught Sunday school.
In addition to his daughter, survivors include three sons, Edwin P. Watson of Makow Podhalanski, Poland, Thomas Watson of Littlestown, Pa., and Chris Watson of Westminster; six other daughters, Elizabeth Cohn of Poolesville, Catherine Rouhana of Towson, Frances Voss of Eugene, Ore., Mary Obanner of Silver Spring, Anne Sigourney of Newport, R.I., and Barbara Regan of Towson; two sisters, Kathleen Hastings and Janice Miles, both of Salisbury; 25 grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren. His marriages to Frances Constance Pula and Emily Durkee ended in divorce.