Respects paid to legend Ballooner

Michigan Balloonist Paid Respects One Year After Death

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People paid their respects to a balloonist who passed away a little over a year ago. Robert “Woody” Watson passed away on August 6, 2016, due to a heart attack. He was 61 years old.

Watson’s wife, Vicky, said that ballooning was her husband’s passion. Recalling when he first got into hot air balloons Vicky said, “I think it was 1980. He saw his first hot air balloon, and he thought that would be a neat way to see the countryside.”

On Sunday, August 6, 2017, over a few dozen people gathered to pay tribute to Watson. “Whoever comes came because of their love for my husband, Woody,” Vicky said.

“It’s his year anniversary in heaven,” Vicky said. “He has a lot of close friends that he trained that are here and miss him. I think they miss him almost as much as I do.”

According to Vicky, Woody once took up the former President Gerald Ford for a tethered hot air balloon ride.

John Burri, who attended the gathering to memorialize Watson, commented on Watson’s love for ballooning. “It’s really nice to have this tribute for him today,” Burri said. “I think it’s comforting to those that knew him and comforting for his wife to know how much Woody was loved.”

Burri said that Watson’s love for ballooning was “infectious” and that he was “fun to be with” not only for people who have gone on many balloon rides but also newcomers to ballooning. Burri said that he had been up with Watson many times. “We’ve traveled to some events he took part in,” Burri said. “He was just a good man and a God-loving man, and it was so much fun to be with him. News of his passing – it hit a lot of us quite hard.”

According to Watson’s obituary, “Woody was a nationally and internationally recognized hot air balloon pilot holding many records. He had a successful real estate career as Team Watson with his wife for 16 years, earning him recognition into the RE/MAX Hall of Fame.”

The same day that Watson passed away he was scheduled to make a hot air balloon flight, but he never got to make that flight.

Watson’s obituary also states, “He had a strong faith, was active in his church, and loved meeting people. He enjoyed hunting, fishing, and being outdoors.” He was with his wife Vicky for 31 years. His obituary also states that Watson had four kids and four grandchildren.

According to his Facebook page, Watson lived in Alto, Michigan and was from Constantine, Michigan. He was the President/Pilot at Sky American Inc—which is located just south of the Gerald R. Ford Airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He and Vicky married on February 15, 1985.

Francisca Gonzalez wrote on his Facebook page on August 9, 2016, at 1:51 p.m., “I was a customer of Woody’s a few years ago. I took a balloon ride in memory of my son. Woody was really nice and had a great sense of humor that calmed my nerves while in the air. My deepest condolences. My heart goes out to his loved ones.”

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