Garen Watson grew into a junior varsity high school football player but also remained his mother’s “baby.” When she mourned the loss of her father last year, he cried with her and for her.
“He wasn’t afraid to shed a tear for someone who was struggling,” Karen Talley said.
These are the things Talley remembers of her youngest son. Watson, a 16-year-old junior at Northwest High School, died Nov. 28 from injuries he suffered in a car accident Thanksgiving morning while driving with his girlfriend to his grandmother’s house in Benbrook.
His funeral is scheduled for 2 p.m. today at Western Hills United Methodist Church in Fort Worth.
“He just had the biggest heart,” Talley said. “It didn’t matter what kind of mood he was in, he never complained.”
“He was my eyes and ears,” said his father, Garland Watson.
When he was in his early 50s, doctors diagnosed Watson with cancer and gave him three months to live. He and Talley had Garen after he beat those odds, but the 70-year-old Vietnam veteran struggled with vision and hearing problems for years after his rounds of chemotherapy and radiation.
In the last year, Watson’s “miracle child” took an interest in joining the Marines.
“He just wanted to see if he could go in there and do something for this country,” Watson said.
The response from Garen Watson’s peers aligned with his parents’ regard for him: One day this week, his classmates placed a Chick-fil-A sandwich — his favorite lunch — at his usual spot in the cafeteria.
At Eaton High School, students wore blue on Tuesday in Garen Watson’s honor. On Wednesday, more than 200 students attended a candlelight vigil at the field where he played junior varsity games this fall.
“You kind of wish you had more one-on-one time,” Northwest football coach Bill Poe said. “I wish I could’ve shook his hand and seen him smile just one last time before he left for [Thanksgiving] break.”
Thanksgiving lunch was scheduled for noon, and Karen Talley got to her mom’s house early. Around 10:30 a.m., Garen let her know that he was on his way from Haslet, where he lived with his father.
Fifteen minutes later, as Talley made the tea and her sister-in-law fixed a fruit salad, she got a call from Garen’s girlfriend’s mom. The couple had been in a wreck on North Loop 820, about a mile west of Interstate 35W.
According to the police report, Garen Watson somehow lost control of his Ford Ranger pickup and collided with another vehicle. The Ranger rolled, and Watson, not wearing a seat belt, was ejected.
He was transported to John Peter Smith Hospital. Talley went there but couldn’t see him.
“He’s in critical, critical condition,” a doctor told her.
So Talley waited, “the hours seeming like days.”
That night, she saw him, but the trauma to his brain was be too much to overcome.
“You think maybe there's some hope,” his father said, “but there's none.”
By the next day, Talley was signing documents to have Garen’s organs donated, which he had indicated as his choice in April when he got his driver’s license.
Talley didn’t find out until after the accident.
“I just felt this arm come around me,” she said. “Not the weight but the calming of it.”
Doctors pronounced Garen dead at 1:53 a.m. Saturday.
“I leaned over and I kissed him and said: ‘You know what? You fought a good fight, and I know I have to let go,’ Talley said.
“And it was the hardest thing I've ever done. He had so much potential.”