WC People: Meet Henry & Eleanor Watts


WC People is an ongoing series of profiles of residents, staff, and volunteers associated with Westminster-Canterbury on Chesapeake Bay. Meet The Watt’s.

Henry and Eleanor Watts like to say they are living life backwards.

While many people attend college, play sports and travel before marrying and having children, Henry and Eleanor did the opposite.

Shortly after meeting, they knew they wanted to marry, and they quickly did so at age 18.

“Of course, I knew before she knew,” says Henry. “She was just so right for me.”

They had three beautiful daughters, which then led to six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

When their three girls entered school, Henry and Eleanor both decided to further their education. He earned his MBA and Doctorate in Business, Marketing and Behavioral Science from George Washington University, and she attended George Mason University, majoring in sociology.

Both say that while they waited until after they had children to return to school, they are lifelong learners. At Westminster-Canterbury, they are happy to be surrounded by others just like them.

“The greatest joy we’ve found at Westminster is the tremendous number of interesting people,” Eleanor says. “Everyone seems to have had such an unusual life and experiences. We can learn from everyone around us.”

Henry and Eleanor are among those interesting people at WC. Henry began working for Southern Railway in Alabama and later transferred to its headquarters in Washington, D.C. When Norfolk Southern formed in 1982, Henry and Eleanor relocated to Hampton Roads where Henry rose through the company, retiring as vice chairman in 1997.

While raising their children, Eleanor volunteered for 17 years as a docent at the Chrysler Museum of Art.

Their desire to continue learning has never wavered.

When Henry retired, the Watts started traveling all over the world, seizing every chance to learn about history, geopolitics and culture. They’ve visited the British Isles, Italy, London, Nepal and more.

They’ve also toured the United States, including taking their six grandchildren to Alaska, and are now visiting presidential homes and libraries.

Not only do Henry and Eleanor enjoy exercising their minds, they continue to exercise their bodies by trying new physical activities. Both learned to ski at age 65.

At Westminster-Canterbury, they are both part of the Great Decisions program, run by the Foreign Policy Administration.  It provides background information and policy options for the eight most critical issues facing America each year and serves as the focal text for discussion groups across the country.

“Westminster-Canterbury really is a reflection of the Virginia Beach community,” Henry says. “It’s easy to become a participant and community member because the residents come from all walks of life. Whether it’s lawn croquet, ping-pong, Book Magic book reviews or the Great Decisions program, everyone can be involved. And you can’t beat the view of the Bay!”

“It’s a great learning experience and service to our community,” says Henry. “The people who live here have such outstanding backgrounds that it’s not difficult to find leaders for the sessions. It takes quite a bit of research but the person who presents truly becomes an expert in the subject.”

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