Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

A COMMUNITY GRIEVES ; Funeral for Nine Family Members Draws a Crowd

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

A COMMUNITY GRIEVES ; Funeral for Nine Family Members Draws a Crowd

Article excerpt

Friends say Chad Watson tried to save his family from the raging fire at their Muhlenberg County home. When it was clear he could not save them, he wrapped his arm around the shoulder of a friend and said, "Brother, my family is in the hands of a loving God."

The fire on Jan. 30 took the lives of Watson's wife, Nikki, and eight of their nine children. Watson and his 11-yearold daughter Kylie were badly injured, but survived and are making a good recovery in a Louisville hospital.

Neither was present at their family's funeral service Saturday. But they were there in the thoughts and prayers of hundreds of family members, friends, acquaintances - and more than a few complete strangers - who gathered to mourn the loss of a mother and her children: 35-year-old Nikki, 15-year-old Madison, 14-year-old Kaitlyn, 13-year-old Morgan, 9-year-old Emily, 8-year-old Samuel, 6- year-old Reagan, and 4-year-old twins Mark and Nathaniel.

The funeral service, paid for by The Band Perry and Tucker Funeral Homes, drew a packed crowd to the community high school auditorium.

The service opened with The Band Perry's song, "If I Die Young." All conversation stopped when the lyrics began. Some friends stepped out to embrace each other, while others sat and simply cried, gazing at the semicircle of matching white coffins that filled the stage. Smiling images of the Watson family were seen in photographs that hung above each of their caskets.

"The sharp knife of a short life," the song played.

Speaking at the service were four people, friends and family members. As each man shared his Watson family memories, a picture of the rural Kentucky family began to form.

The Watsons struggled financially. The couple loved each other and they loved God. And they were happy.

Chad and Nikki grew up in the same community and went to church together as children, recalled Rev. Scott Casebier. Chad, with his fire-engine red hair and penchant for asking outlandish questions, was always getting noticed. Nikki, on the other hand, was quiet and sweet.

"You could say that Chad and Nikki were nothing alike," Casebier said. But the couple clicked.

When they were first dating they would sometimes sneak into the back corners of their church to kiss. But they remained virtuous until marriage, Rev. Tim Burden said.

"Of course they made up for it after," he added. Peals of laughter rippled around the auditorium.

The Watson's decision to have such a large family was gossiped about and sometimes questioned and more often joked about. But never by the Watson family, because Chad and Nikki, and the whole family were happy, their friends said.

The couple had their oldest daughter a year after they married, said Chad's cousin and good friend Rev. Adam Brown.

"Then it seemed like six months later they had their second," Brown said. …

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