The Last Time We Saw Bob (1925-2012)

Bob Watt at home, Milwaukee  (12.23.2010)

Jon Reilly, Bob Watt (standing/seated), Milwaukee (1.23.2010)

Bob Watt's friend, publisher and DPOA, Jon Reilly taped a note to the front door of Bob's Dousman Street house the day before New Year's Eve. It said Bob had been taken to hospice in Mequon, but welcomed visitors. Hours later, we learned Bob soon would "cash in his chips"--a slogan Bob used often in his letters when reporting that another of his friends had passed on. Bob's heart was failing and a morphine drip eased him out. He died on January 2, 2012. It took awhile before an official obituary ran in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the daily paper Bob and his friends (known collectively as the Breakfast Club) read religiously. They'd gather at McDonalds, the only place in Milwaukee that hadn't kicked them out for loitering, for coffee and discussion before heading out on a "rummage run". First came the blog accounts of Bob's passing. Matt Wild wrote "Watt leaves behind a thorny but colorful legacy, as well as friends and loved ones to make sense of it all" in the Onion's A.V. Club Milwaukee (1.4.2012); Michael Horne called Watt "A true character" in his InsideMilwaukee.com post (1.5.2012); Molly Snyder wrote "Watt helped keep Milwaukee weird and for that, I will always appreciate him" for  OnMilwaukee.com (1.6.2012); and finally Tom Tolan's obituary summed up Bob's "outrageous persona when he was a Beat poet and mainstay of 1960s Milwaukee counterculture" for the MJS (1.8.2012).  Since 2004, Bob wrote us letters sometimes daily filling eight file boxes with his commentary on the Milwaukee art scene, his childhood, global politics, the Packers, the Badgers, as well as a poems, numerous copies of his will (which we always read ase a poem), original 35 mm slides of models, collages, and newspaper clippings passed along from Breakfast Club discussions. We received the last letter from Bob on May 3, 2011 after he'd recovered some from a heart attack that kept him in the hospital a number of days where he dictated a letter that ended with reportage of his hospital stay. While in the hospital recovering, he'd write us, "It's Friday, we missed all the rummages. We don't know how long we'll last. But the bloody vampires have gone crazy with all their needles. I wonder why the IV is so slow? Well, I guess they know what they are doing.." In his last letter he wrote, "We need more people in the arts in Milwaukee, can you send some this way?" After his spring 2010 heart attack, we didn't get around to visiting him until December 23 when we made a digital panorama in his parlor surrounded by paintings. We watched the Playboy Chanel with him and talked about the news. It had been more than 20 years since Dean Olson, co-founder of the Wright Street Gallery first brought us over to Bob's house (1987). We photographed him a few times that day and then in the 1990s before deciding to include him in a 16 mm film we were making about the creative process, progress, and time called "One Million Years is Three Seconds."

Bob Watt excerpt from our One Million Years is Three Seconds film

Fear No Art: Bob Watt segment by Paul Cotter
as aired on MATC/Milwaukee Public Television on February 19, 2012.
Photographer Francis Ford, publisher Jon Reilly, artist David Ruel
among others are interviewed.

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