November 10, 1943 - May 19, 2018
Clarence Gene Watkins, was born into a loving family of C.G and Celista Watkins on 11/10/1943 in Omaha, Nebraska. He was the youngest out of his siblings Phillip “Kip” and Jean Watkins. He arrived to Portland, Oregon when he was three years old. Soon after his family home washed away with the Vanport flood. His parents were active members of Vancouver Baptist Ave Church and community. Although, Clarence was not a religious person he was familiar with Christian values from his upbringing.
As a youth his peers always enjoyed when he came around because he always had funds from home to share with his buddies to watch a movie in the colored section or enjoy a quick bite to eat. His peers lovingly called him “zip eye” because of bicycle accident as a boy that a left a long zig zag scar on his left eye.
Clarence, attended Thomas Jefferson High school. At Jefferson he stood out as a versatile athlete and worked his way up from JV Varsity teams in 1959 to the Varsity championship team in both football and the tracked team in 1961. His studies and sports were important to him and he graduated a proud Democrat in 1962.
In 1965 he enlisted in the U.S. Army as a Paratrooper. He was amongst the first 4,000 paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division to arrive in Vietnam, landing at Cam Ranh Bay. The first brigade fought until, the remainder of the division arrived in Vietnam two years later and that is when he received a honorable discharge in 1967.
Has a new father he came home to quickly find work as Brake Smith with the Union Pacific Railroad. He held the position as a “rainmen”, or “brakemen”. He was responsible for the caboose identifying end of train markers. Also, he was responsible for protecting the train, which means, “flagging” behind and ahead whenever the train is exposed to collision. After 20 years of employment he earned his retirement.
Clarence, continued to work for the Booker’s Janitorial service for several years. In the 1990’s He volunteered with the Habitat of Humanity as a construction worker. He helped build the homes off of Killingsworth and Mallory Street that are being lived in today.
Clarence, could always be found close to home with his friends or family. He really enjoyed summer months and the Rose Festival celebrating time of year and enjoyed taking his girls to the parades and carnival. Also, the Neighborhood could count on him to bring the biggest and loudest boom on the 4th of July.
He lived a full life. He witnessed and experienced war, the civil right movement, the African American brilliant community in Portland, the 70’s, and the destruction of our community from drugs, redlining, inequities across the board, and a technology boom that was out of his grasp, but he remained a good person, a friend, a brother, a father and lastly a greatly loved grandfather.
Clarence was preceded in death by his father C.G. and Celista Watkins and grandson Ricky Dance.
He is survived by two oldest siblings Velma Redeau and Kip Watkins. His two daughters Yvette Washington and Elsya Watkins. His four grandsons: Justin, Sean, Je’kobe, and Jeremiah.