For the last 94 years Nell Watt lived a very full life. At 94, she recently had two Christian children’s books published, soon to be in English, Spanish, and Creole. She was known to many as Elvis and to her family is Elkie.
If you knew her, you know she was a storyteller so in her own words….
I am Nell Hodgson Watt the 94 year old author of these books. I’ve had a long and fabulous life and happily claim that “God has always blessed my socks off!” I also admit that being the baby of 27 first cousins and coming along 8 years behind my three brothers I was spoiled rotten!
My daddy had a younger sister who grew up as “best friends” with my mother. The three of them were exceptionally close. My aunt became a nurse and though she and her husband were childless she assisted in many births. On July 4, 1926 she helped bring me into the world and as she laid me in Mother’s arms she beamed, “Here’s your Little Lydia”. Mother said, “No! Loving you and Bob, we’ve named her “Little Nell” and you and Bob can “have” her anytime!” So, from the minute I was born
I had two sets of parents! Have you ever heard of anyone so blessed? “Nana and Bimpa” as I called them, put clothes on my back, braces on my teeth, gave me music lessons, took me on fabulous trips and helped my parents decide where I’d go to school later. He taught me to ride a horse at 16, and to shoot a shotgun and a rifle. They made my wedding to Robert Watt unforgettable!
I was also is blessed to have saints for parents and grandparents. My dad taught the University of Georgia college Sunday school class at the first Baptist Church in Athens Georgia for 25 years, so our house was always filled with young Christians. My maternal grandmother taught her class there “forever“! They raised all of us on the second row of church every Sunday, passing cookies and water to keep us quiet. She told my cousins and me Bible stories every Sunday afternoon! We picked up stones with David as he fought and killed Goliath. We cut off Sampson‘s hair and pulled down the columns! We collected the animals with Noah for the ark! We were swallowed with Jonah! We knew all those old Bible characters as our friends “as we’d beg for our favorite stories! They would also pick us up in Papa‘s Model T Ford and take us to some remote area that didn’t have a preacher. Papa will deliver a simple sermon and she would share our favorite stories with the kids, and lead us all in familiar old hymns. Paragraph
I also went to a tiny remnant of a school that one of my ancestors had started. Each class had only six or seven pupils, and we memorized sections of the King James version of the Bible every month for all seven years! At 94, I can still mentally recall most of those verses as they are read in the pulpit. What you memorize as a child stays with you! So you see I have always had Jesus as part of my life!
Nana wanted me to be a nurse like she was, but I told her Robert had to take the splinters out of our three children’s fingers! Because Robert and I had been so blessed, we wanted to “pass it on“ so we both served in civic affairs and church work. I was chairman of Fulton County’s American Cancer Society Door-to-Door collections with an “army” of 20,000 women one year. I served on both their Atlanta and state boards, and served on several other boards; I spoke to a National Convention for Easter seals in Miami; I was president of the Women of the Church of Atlanta’s Presbyterians, as well as studied the New and Old Testament under Dr. Paul Echols before teaching them for two years. In my late 80s I had a Bible class meet weekly at my house until the COVID-19 virus stopped his last spring.
Robert and I always said, “Our house is God’s House and we just happen to live there.” God has sent many fascinating people through our doors! One night a N. C. high school group was stranded for a place to stay. At 11:30 PM, a bus pulled up to our drive, and 40 tired teenagers, 40 sleeping bags and 40 backpacks came through our door. After devouring the Cokes and goodies I’d hurriedly bought, they grabbed guitars and had a fabulous service in our playroom, before we had “wall-to-wall” bodies across the living room, dining room, screened porch, under the dining room table and any available space! My washing machine and dryer ran all night. They claimed the “Record Spend the Night Party“! They still hold it!
One night the “Young Americans” California singing group on tour had supper at our house. I’ve worked with their leader at Cancer. They sang to us and brought tears. One night the Duke football team had supper at our house, as a head coach was like family (we eat a lot of salad!).
In 1960 I was a regular housewife and mother of three, Bob 8, Josh 6 and Nell, one and a half. My brother Hutch and his family moved back to Atlanta and his 16-year-old son Pat and I clicked immediately! I knew nothing about teenagers, but I learned quickly as he and his friends ate me out of house and home. Pat “babysat“ and became like a son to us. One night as I was accompanying their singing and dancing on the piano, Pat teasingly said “all you need is a guitar, Elvis“! With much laughter it stuck and they all called me “Elvis” from then on. They still do and also a multitude of others! We started a weekly group “Elvis’s Elves” where Robert and I would discuss anything – parents, sex, dating, etc., with prayer. I became their “Dear Abby” over the phone, into AM hours, even into college. Many still call me “Elvis” and family calls me “Elkie”.
God gives each one of us different dreams, passions, and “gifts” which makes each of us unique! I’ve never been trained but I’ve always longed to be a Christian writer like Catherine Marshall. In 1953 I collected true stories from old families in Athens, Georgia. I rhymed them into a book called “Ball of Southern Yarns“. We sold them for $2.50 and I made enough to buy a dining room table and chairs. In 1957 I wrote these two children’s books for my sons Bob and Josh. I wanted them to know the Bible and Jesus early like I did. This Christmas I still had the “originals” which I had illustrated with cut out magazines and Christmas cards, etc. My daughter Nell said, “Mother, we all need copies”, thus the result is in your hand.
Then in 2003, 50 years after my 1st book I wrote another book called “Heart Whispers” a collection of 50 devotionals, which had a second printing. They are just the whispered conversations between the Lord and me. None of my books are any converse or anything like Catherine Marshall! I remember in Louisa M. Alcott‘s classic masterpiece “Little Women“ which was also made into several film versions, there was a conversation I’d like to paraphrase. It was between a young Joe March and her old friend, Professor Bhaer. She too had always longed to be a writer like Shakespeare. The professor encouraged her with “You can’t be another Shakespeare but you can be the best Joe March if you write things you know and have felt in your heart“. That’s what I’ve tried to do. Whatever “gifts” God has given you don’t ever give up on them! Work with God as you make them authentically your own! They will flow freely through your heart with His love and guidance! Then maybe you too can say with me, “God blessed my sox off!!!”
Nell is survived by her son Bob Watt Jr (Margaret), Josh Watt (Julie) and Nell Hanson (Mark), four granddaughters, Ashley Watt Beam, Ali Watt Chapas, Lydia Hansen and Tait Hansen. Three great grandchildren: Levi Beam, Graham Beam and Hayden Chapas. She is preceded by her husband Robert Watt and too many special family and friends to name. Suffice it to say she is now surrounded by her Lord and so many loved ones that her cup is overflowing!
This woman was a monument of love that impacted everyone she encountered…a true legend. We will miss hearing her special terms of endearment like, “sweet Lamb”, “bless your heart” and “dahlin’” spoken beautifully with her deep Southern accent. One card from a close friend says it all, “Being with her was like seeing God and feeling the warmth of sunshine all at the same time. I think of Elvis/Nell/Elkie and I feel happiness”.
Nell loved trees - their strength and beauty. At one time she wanted to live in a pecan orchard. So, in lieu of flowers, please plant a tree in her memory at https://www.lordandstephens.com/obituary/Nell-Watt/1071917/memorial-tree or help one of her favorite ministries: Eagle Ranch, 5500 Union Church Rd., Flowery Branch, GA, 30542.
The family would like to say in the last years, especially with Covid, there has been an army of angels to care for mom and her needs. Thanks so much to each of you for the role you have played in her care, the care of her home and giving her children peace of mind knowing you and God had her! Jessica Martin - for 21 years you have been her helper, her friend her partner and so much more! Thanks to you and the many on mom’s team from the bottom of our hearts.
Service to be held Sunday, June 6, 2021 at 1:00 PM at Second Ponce de Leon Baptist Church, 2715 Peachtree Rd. Atlanta, Georgia 30305. and will be livestreamed at https://livestream.com/spdl/NellWatt
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Nell Hodgson Watt, please visit our floral store.