Mundelein museum curator Dottie Watson remembered for her love of history and patriotism

  • Dottie Watson, president and curator of the Fort Hill Historical Museum in Mundelein, died Thursday.

    Dottie Watson, president and curator of the Fort Hill Historical Museum in Mundelein, died Thursday. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer, 2016

  • Dottie Watson was the curator of the Fort Hill Heritage Museum in Mundelein.

    Dottie Watson was the curator of the Fort Hill Heritage Museum in Mundelein.

  • Dottie Watson, president and curator of the Fort Hill Historical Museum in Mundelein, died Thursday.

    Dottie Watson, president and curator of the Fort Hill Historical Museum in Mundelein, died Thursday. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 9/1/2018 12:50 PM

Longtime Mundelein resident Dorothy "Dottie" Watson is being remembered for her love of history and her patriotic spirit.

The curator and president of Mundelein's Fort Hill Heritage Museum, Watson was a fixture at the village's annual Independence Day gathering there. She could be seen each year in an eye-catching, colonial-style, red, white and blue dress.

 

"Each year she had a Navy band, several speakers and then a picnic with fried chicken," Mundelein Mayor Steve Lentz said. "It seemed like an event from 100 years ago."

Watson, 85, died Thursday at a Lincolnshire rehabilitation center. She had been in declining health.

Born in downstate Cairo, Watson graduated from Hyde Park High School in Chicago and then from a business college.

Afterward, she worked as a private secretary and supervisor for what was then the Department of the Army in Chicago. She also worked as a model, a Sunday school teacher and assistant curator of the Great Lakes Naval Museum near North Chicago, now called the National Museum of the American Sailor.

But it was Watson's stewardship of the Fort Hill Heritage Museum at 601 Noel Drive for which she was best known in Mundelein.

Watson and her late husband, Leland T. "Trig" Watson Jr., joined the volunteer group that runs the museum, called the Historical Society of the Fort Hill Country, not long after moving to Mundelein in the 1960s. She became the museum's curator in 1987.

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The museum's exhibits include a model of a 1900s-era schoolhouse, pioneer tools, antique maps of Lake County and other regional artifacts.

"This is a place where people can come and see treasures and enjoy what their ancestors had," she said in a 2016 interview. "You have to give the past a future."

The Mundelein Park and Recreation District owns the museum building and maintains it, but the historical society owns the materials inside. Park District Executive Director Margaret Resnick recalled meeting Watson after she began working for the district in 2007.

"We were talking about my father and the fact that we were Catholic, and she said she was friends with the provost at (the Mundelein) Seminary," Resnick said. "She arranged for a personal tour with him for my father and I. It was a wonderful experience that I would not have had if it weren't for Dottie."

In 2016, the village board honored Watson and the historical society for their work with an official proclamation. Watson and her husband had been honored by the village in 2003.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Watsons also loved to sing. They were members of the choir at the First Presbyterian Church of Libertyville and of the Liberty Fremont Concert Society and the Apollo Musical Club in Chicago.

Visitation is scheduled for noon Wednesday at the First Presbyterian Church of Libertyville, 219 W. Maple Ave. A funeral is scheduled for 1 p.m.

Interment will follow at Lakeside Cemetery.

Memorial donations may be sent to the Lakeside Cemetery Renovation Fund, P.O. Box 500, Libertyville, Illinois, 60048.

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