North Carolina Heritage Award winning fiddler Ora Watson of Watauga County, North Carolina, subject of a recent article in the Old-Time Herald by Mark Freed (vol. 11 no. 1, Oct.-Nov. 2007), passed away on March 27 at the age of 96. Friend Cecil Gurganus writes:
Ora Watson touched many people during her 96 years, with her music and her belief that “music keeps me young.” She practiced that belief throughout her life in the many musical paths she chose: making music in her early years with the Isaacs Sisters, singing in church, fiddling for the Blue Ridge Ramblers, playing with Doc Watson at Thompson’s Seafood Restaurant, weekly music sessions with many friends at both the Cove Creek and Boone Senior Centers, a tour with her husband Arlie and Alice Gerrard, fiddling with the Cacklin’ Hens, receiving the North Carolina Folk Heritage Award in Raleigh, a trip to Berea, Kentucky, in 2001 (at age 90) to be a featured performer at the Celebration of Traditional Music, fiddling at Sims Country BBQ, both in Taylorsville, NC and Myrtle Beach, SC many times with different bands, playing with Doc Watson and David Holt on stage in Cove Creek, playing at the bedside of dear friends at the end of their lives in the hospital or nursing home, and on and on. The list is really endless.
Her rhythmic, energetic fiddling was often accompanied with her simultaneous dancing. Even when she could no longer dance, due to inner ear problems, she would sit on the sofa fiddling, with her feet just a-working, or give two hands to a partner so she could stand up and dance.
Many friends paid their respects with music and song on March 29, 2008, in a celebration of Ora’s life, at her burial almost within sight of Isaac’s Branch, where she spent most of her years. Her favorite dance tune, “Ragtime Annie,” was played, along with many other tunes and songs. Virginia, one of her daughters, told her, “Mother, now you’ll be fiddling with the ‘Angel Band,’” and so that was the final song in her service.