As editor of the Gloucester Daily Times, Peter Watson nurtured talent in the newsroom and kept doing so once the workday was through. Over the years, he and his wife, Patricia, hosted scores of interns, who stayed temporarily in their Rockport home.
“We literally have had well over 50 young people live with us,” Mr. Watson said in a 2006 interview, after his wife died.
“Sometimes we’d have two or three. In the summers we almost always had a couple of people living here. We probably did that for close to 25 years.”
Many continued on as full-time reporters after graduating from college, including Lisa Miller, who is now the director of the journalism program at the University of New Hampshire.
“I just remember them really making me feel like family, sharing meals, long late-night talks about life and the universe,” said Miller, who lived with the Watsons in 1978. “It was just a wonderful place to be. They were wonderful people.”
Mr. Watson, a longtime reporter, editor, and newspaper executive who ran the Gloucester Daily Times for more than a dozen years, died of brain cancer Nov. 24 in the Kaplan Family Hospice House in Danvers.
He was 73 and had lived in Rockport.
Using editorials to sway public policy, the newspaper under Mr. Watson argued for restoration of the mayoral form of government and for waterfront zoning.
“He just believed so strongly in community journalism,” said Tony Mauro, who formerly worked for the Gloucester Daily Times.
“He was so committed to being fair. . . . He didn’t want anybody to hear a siren during the day, or a fire truck go by, and not find out what it was all about in the next day’s paper.”
While serving as editor in Gloucester, Mr. Watson initiated a college internship program with UNH that brought student interns to the newspaper.
“Nobody worked harder than Peter did,” Miller said. “He loved the community, and he loved the paper, and that was evident. I think that rubbed off on all of us.”
Mr. Watson established what would grow to be a 35-foot wall of awards in the newsroom.
Still, Mr. Watson lived life “incredibly well” without being the center of attention, his sons said.
“If he met somebody, he wanted to know everything about them and figure out what the connection was,” said his son Jared of Seattle.
“He was my first and best editor, just a really dedicated newsperson,” Mauro said.
Mr. Watson was born and grew up in Leominster.
He spent summers in Rockport as a child and began living there full time during the 1960s.
He graduated in 1957 from Notre Dame Preparatory School in Fitchburg.
Four years later he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he wrote for the university’s student newspaper.
In 1959, during a party held at a fraternity house, he met Patricia Ward, who was overseeing the newspaper’s editorial pages.
“I had the good sense to drive her back to her dormitory,” Mr. Watson said in the 2006 interview for his wife’s obituary.
“She was probably the most striking redhead in the world.”
They married in 1964.
After college, Mr. Watson served six months in the Army Reserve. He began his career by working as an editor of several weekly newspapers in the Worcester area.
In 1963, Mr. Watson became a reporter for the Beverly Times.
An avid sailor, he moved to Connecticut with his family in the late 1960s to pursue a position as editor of a sailboat racing magazine.
He then moved to Rockport to become editor of the Gloucester Daily Times, a position he held until 1982, when he became the founding editor of the Beverly-Peabody Times, when the two newspapers merged. A year later, the newspapers went back to being separate publications and Mr. Watson became general manager of the Essex County Newspapers.
During the years they let interns live in their home, Mr. and Mrs. Watson “seemed happier and more content when there were more people in the house, rather than fewer,” said their son Seth of Seattle.
“For my parents, it was like you were renting a family,” Jared said.
“They wanted you to be a part of the family and have dinner … go out on the boat in the summer.”
After Mr. Watson retired from the Essex County Newspapers in 2002, he was chairman of the Rockport Town Government and Bylaw Committee and was an adviser for John Bell’s 2005 reelection campaign as mayor of Gloucester. Mr. Watson also was a member and principal writer of the task force for the preservation of Addison Gilbert Hospital in Gloucester.
A longtime member of the Sandy Bay Yacht Club in Rockport, Mr. Watson raced in three boat classes.
He also was an amateur car hobbyist whose most memorable purchases were a spacious Buick that could hold a family of 12, and a Ford Mustang that was barely held together with duct tape.
For one Halloween gathering, he wore a pair of ripped jeans and a sweatshirt covered in duct tape, Jared said.
“People said, ‘You are dressed up as your car.’ ”
In addition to his two sons, Mr. Watson thought of Kareem Wilson of Rockport as a third son. Wilson had spent summers with the Watson family.
A service will be held at 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 29 in the Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport.
In his late 40s, Mr. Watson began competing as a runner and helped found Team Gloucester, a running club on Cape Ann.
He ran more than 20 times in the annual Mount Washington Road Race, and also competed in the Around Cape Ann 25K races and in trail runs around New England.
In a 1999 interview, he recalled a particular turn early in the Mount Washington Road Race where runners suddenly confront the magnitude of the uphill course.
“As soon as you take that right, the steepness hits you like a sledgehammer,” said Mr. Watson, who was 60 at the time. “You have the sense the first time that it never, ever lets up.”