Warner R Watkins, was 80 years old when he passed on November 1, 2022. His life was centered around his family, whom he loved dearly.
Warner was born in the home of his grandparents, Jesse and Mable Perkins, in Mesa, Arizona on November 19, 1941. He was the fifth of seven children of Warner Russell Watkins and Ida Perkins from Phoenix, Arizona. Warner’s mother and father raised their children in Phoenix, where Warner lovingly recalled times riding bikes and running around with his little sister, Loraine. Warner attended Washington Elementary School and Washington Highschool, where he graduated in June 1959.
Warner attended Phoenix College for a semester before heading out to serve as a Missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the Northern, California Mission in 1961. He would often repeat the memorized lines he learned in the mission field, “what do you know about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints? Would you like to know more?” He loved his mission and told endless stories about catching his companion kissing an investigator, the beauty of California, and his strong testimony. Warner faithfully served as a missionary until being released from his mission in March 1963.
After his LDS mission, he returned to Phoenix College for a second semester. He enlisted in the United States Army Reserves on February 18, 1964. Warner was on active duty for six months at Fort Ord, California where he worked as a dental technician and did all he could to avoid KP duty and peeling potatoes.
Warner loved to dance. He made a point to participate in all of the stake, regional, and the All Church Dance Festivals. While attending Glendale Community College, he was asked by another stake to participate in their dance festival in Salt Lake City. Warner’s dance partner was not able to travel for the competition and it was then that he met Jan Rae Johnson. She became his partner in the dance festival. Warner drove his new dance partner, Jan, and her sister Joy and Joy’s dance partner, to Salt Lake City for the competition. By the time they all got back home, Jan and Warner were dating.
After first meeting his wife and dancing with her in the festival, Warner told his friends that, “I am going to marry that girl, though she doesn’t know it yet.” Warner proposed to Jan on July 15, 1965. They were married a little over three months later on October 27, 1965 in the Mesa Temple.
Warner and Jan began their marriage in Phoenix, Arizona. They desperately wanted to start a family. Unable to have children, they sought to adopt. They moved to Utah to continue their education. Warner and Jan both attended Brigham Young University. In the fall of 1970, after countless prayers, letters, and phone calls, they adopted their first baby: a little girl they named, Jenifer.
Warner often joked that Jan had told him that she wanted 12 children. He did not realize then how serious she was about reaching that goal or how determined she was. The two of them set out on a journey adopting nine children for the next 15 years. Jan would often come to Warner and tell him that she believed there was another child out there somewhere for their family, and the two of them would go find their next baby.
Their first son, Darin, was the next child to join the family. A little over two years after Darin’s adoption in Phoenix, Arizona, Jan and Warner took an epic journey across the world to Tonga to find their baby girl, Kimberly. They found their next baby girl, Caron, in the Phoenix valley. Warner and Jan spent months waiting for their next baby son, Jonathan, to be released from the hospital after catching pneumonia just after birth. Their sixth child would be their sweet baby girl Erin Camilla. adopted from Scottsdale. A year later, Jan jumped on a plane to Corvallis, Oregon by herself to get their baby boy, Joseph. Warner probably thought they were done with seven children, but Jan had other plans. They later adopted biological siblings, Jarom and Cori who were 4 and 5 years old. By 1985 Warner and Jan had adopted nine children in total: Jeni, Darin, Kim, Caron, Jon, Cori, Jarom, Cami (Erin), and Joe.
Warner’s life was always centered around his family. He loved his mother and father and he spent hours and hours playing rummikub or rook at his parent’s kitchen table. The Watkins siblings are deeply committed to each other and their family. Warner honored his relationships with his siblings and strengthened their family traditions. Warner worked for years in the telecommunications industry with his brother Wayne and developed the ability to fix almost anything and used those skills to help everyone around him. Over the last ten years, Warner called each of his siblings every Sunday to check in and get an update on their lives. He was a good brother and son.
Feeding nine hungry mouths was not an easy task. Warner and Jan pinched pennies and scraped to make ends meet. They built a home in Gilbert, Arizona and Warner continued to build his life around his family by serving them. In 1990, with nine children in tow, Warner and Jan returned to Utah for Jan to finish her education at BYU. Initially, they lived in Orem and eventually they bought a home in Genola, Utah. They spent years remodeling and fixing up the home and the ten acres orchard with fruit trees. In 1999, Jan and Warner decided to sell their home and return to Arizona, taking their youngest child with them. With their eight older children having settled in
Utah, Warner, Jan, and Joseph moved to Heber, where they built another home.
Warner and Jan lived in Heber, surrounded by his sibling’s homes and cabins. They had honeymooned in Heber at the family cabin in 1965. They loved Heber and were loved there. Warner was a proud garbage man and was loved by all he met. He loved his job but it was backbreaking work. As Jan’s cancer returned for the second time in the early 2000s, Warner proved his greatness as a man in the hardest of circumstances. Warner cared for his loving wife as she succumbed to cancer. If there is any true measure of a man, it is how he cares for his ailing wife. Forty years after their honeymoon in Heber, Warner would hold his wife’s hand in that same little town as she slipped from this life to the next.
Warner sold his Heber home and moved to Utah to be closer to his children. He moved in with his oldest daughter, Jeni. He spent his days visiting his kids and driving back and forth to Arizona to be with his siblings. In 2011 Warner suffered a series of minor strokes that kept him in the hospital for months. He would eventually recover but the strokes took their toll on his body. He would be in and out of the hospital in the coming years. While he could no longer drive or get around like he wanted to, he never lost his humor, wit, or his ruthlessness in a game of cards. He never stopped serving his children or loving them. His children, following their father’s example, took their turn caring for their ailing father. He continued to live with his oldest daughter Jeni, who was his loving and committed caregiver.
Warner was a dedicated and loving son, brother, husband, father, grandfather, and great grandfather. He was the ultimate family man. He frequently mentioned how long his prayers were because he prayed for each of his family members by name: each of his siblings, their spouses and kids, each of his own kids and their spouses, and each of his grandchildren and great grandchildren. He was truly loving, kind beyond words, and always caring. He loved his wife and spoke of her often after she passed, always “striving to be worthy of her.” He loved his children and was beyond proud of his 28 grandchildren, and 8 great-grandchildren, with one more on the way.
On November 1, 2022, Warner was finally reunited with his love, Jan and is at peace. He will be missed by all who knew him and were lucky enough to feel his love.
Funeral services will be held Saturday, November 12, 2022 at Sunny Ridge 3rd Ward, 1470 East 130 North, Spanish Fork, Utah at 11:00 am. Services will be live-streamed on Legacy Funerals & Cremations Facebook page. Interment will follow in the Spanish Fork Cemetery.
To leave condolences for the family, go to www.legacyfunerals.com