Rebecca Watson, 57

Model, actor, teacher, advocate

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Rebecca S. Watson, 57, died in her River Forest home on Oct. 1, 2019, surrounded by her husband of 26 years, Thomas J. Watson and her children, T.J. and Matthew. Other survivors include her father, Victor Cruz, and her brothers: Ken, Steven (Melanie), Kevin and Jeff (Kerry) Cruz. 

Born in Los Angeles, she lived a full life. A successful model and actor, her career took her to Paris, Milan, New York, and Los Angeles, starting at 16 until she retired in her late 20s. Thereafter she bluffed her way into a management position at Ann Taylor, despite no experience, teaching herself the things she needed to know at night. Her young retail career culminated in a regional manager position at Banana Republic, until she moved to Chicago, married, and raised her family. 

A free spirit, she was fearless, spontaneous, kind, and wise. When she decided while on a vacation in Mykonos, Greece that she wanted to stay longer, she got a job herding goats to pay the rent. She called it her Tempest Year. She did aerobics to stay in shape for modeling, and someone signed her up for the Crystal Light National Aerobic Championship — which she won. 

To defray the cost of attending out-of-town Grateful Dead shows, she sold wind-up toys at the shows on Shakedown Street. Smart enough to realize setting up next to the stir-fry guy meant lots of hungry Dead Heads standing around waiting for food and buying her toys, she sold out quickly and could then enjoy the weekend. 

When she wanted to be a better mother, she became a Montessori teacher. When her children suffered from mental illness and needed help in school, she became a fierce champion for their rights and such an expert on the law that she became a source of information and strength for other parents struggling with the same issues. When her son, Matthew started playing hockey, she became a hockey mom, team manager, and passionate fan of both Matthew in goal, and the Chicago Blackhawks. 

Even with metastatic breast cancer, her Facebook post about voting went viral and resulted in calls from the Secretary of State to do voter outreach, and a call from would-be Gov. Pritzker. While Rebecca loved to travel with her family all over the world, she especially loved her time at her second home in the mountains of Sun Valley, Idaho and on vacations in Puerto Rico. Her Puerto Rican heritage was a great source of pride. 

A Celebration of Life will be held with a Jazz Funeral and Second Line parade on Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. at FitzGerald's nightclub in Berwyn. Please RSVP at thomasjwatson@mindspring.com.

In lieu of flowers, donations to Thrive Counseling Center (www.thrivecc.org) are appreciated. Arrangements were handled by Drechsler, Brown & Williams Funeral Home.

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