COLUMBIA — After meeting on a blind date in 1941, Annavesta Watchinski and her husband, Herbert Watchinski, didn't see each other until days before their wedding on June 18, 1944.
Mr. Watchinski reported for active duty in the U.S. Army in California weeks after meeting Mrs. Watchinski. He not able to return home until he was granted a three-day leave, during which the wedding was held in her backyard in Shelbyville, Ill.
"Their entire courtship was done by letter," her son Herbert Watchinski Jr. said. "My mother saved every letter."
Mrs. Watchinski died Friday, Dec. 28, 2012. She was 90 years old. She was born on September 23, 1922, in Campbell, Mo.
In 1944, Mrs. Watchinski graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University with a degree in sociology. After moving to Columbia in 1956 with her husband and three sons, Mrs. Watchinski became an administrative assistant in the guidance counseling office at Hickman High School, Herbert Watchinski Jr. said.
One of the men she worked for, Eliot Battle, was involved in the effort to end discrimination and segregation in Columbia's schools. "She clearly worked in a top-notch guidance counseling office," he said. "She ran with some pretty heavy company."
Making use of her sociology degree, Mrs. Watchinski became a social worker at the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center, where she stayed for about 20 years, Herbert Watchinski Jr. said.
"At that time, the probability of recovering from cancer was relatively low," he said. "She worked with the families of the patients to make sure they were taken care of."
After retiring in the mid '80s, Mrs. Watchinski volunteered at The Wardrobe on Park Ave. in Columbia, a thrift store. She was also involved in volunteer efforts at the Missouri United Methodist Church in Columbia.
"When she could no longer give her time, she would give her money," Herbert Watchinski Jr. said. "She was incredibly benevolent."
He remembers his mother as a caring and delightful woman, who loved her family dearly. "Most everybody who came into contact with her thought the world of her," he said. "I can't tell you how many people have told me, 'She is the sweetest person I've ever met.'"
Mrs. Watchinski is survived by two sons, Herbert Walter Watchinski Jr. and Robert Watchinski and his wife, Marion; grandchildren Karin Dombrowsky and her husband Aaron, Marc Watchinski and his wife Sara, Carmen Watchinski, and Matthew Watchinski and his wife Leslie; and great-grandchildren Riley Dombrowsky, Keegan Dombrowsky and Andrew Watchinski.
Mrs. Watchinski's husband, Herbert Walter Watchinski Sr., and son Neil Watchinski died earlier.
A visitation will befrom 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 2 at Parker Funeral Service at 22 North 10th St. A funeral will be at 11 a.m. at Missouri United Methodist Church at 204 S. Ninth St., on Thursday, January 3.
Memorial contributions may be given to the American Cancer Society.
Supervising editor is Richard Webner.