Michael Watson

michael watson

Michael R. Watson was born in Rolette, ND on June 18, 1951 to Ardeth and Ross Watson. Michael is the oldest in his family followed by Tom, Jeff, Tim, and Annette. He grew up in Maxbass, Towner, and New Rockford, North Dakota. He earned his business degree from the University of North Dakota. Following college he moved back home to work with his father and brother at First United Bank.

On June 15, 1974, Michael married Barbara L. Sorum. As lifelong sweethearts, Barb and Michael's personalities complimented each other perfectly; this provided the foundation for a lifelong journey of love and honor. Their children are Erik (Kari) and Sara (Joe). Both families currently live in Fargo. Grandchildren are Andrew, Ava, and Lauren. Family is Michael's most cherished gift. His love as a husband, father, and proud 'Papa Mike' will continue to be known. A life filled with integrity and lessons will be his legacy to his family. Thank you, Michael R. Watson, for sharing your life with us.

With his easy going and kind personality, Michael continued to make life-long friends in each of the communities he called "home."

In 1989 Michael continued his banking career in Grafton. Throughout his 35 years of banking service in three communities, Michael was well respected by his customers while earning their trust and friendship. He was very proud of his ability to deal with people. Michael was adored for his big heart and gregarious personality.

In 2009, Barb and Michael moved to Grand Forks. His career in banking ended abruptly when a large very slow growing pituitary gland tumor adversely affected his decision-making skills. His whole life was based on service to others. Not being able to work again deeply saddened him as he so enjoyed being around people and helping them attain their own dreams. On November 22, 2010 Michael and his family learned of this debilitating tumor.

Michael had many brain operations and procedures in hopes of removing this tumor and controlling the build-up of fluids in his brain. Unfortunately, the final result was a very damaged mid-brain. This area of the brain is in charge of our abilities to walk, be alert, swallow, talk, balance, eat, and help our eyes to focus and track what it is seeing. After agonizing over decisions that had to be made, his family knew it was time to set this man we love so dearly free to his Heavenly Father. 

We wish friends and family to remember this vibrant man as one who possessed the highest integrity and led by example. He valued honesty, being a responsible and good citizen, and was an avid storyteller. Michael entertained us by his quick wit and his ability to tell a joke that fit any occasion! Michael was known for his trademarks: a positive attitude, kind words, sparkling eyes and a smile to all along with a gentle way of handling people and animals. Meeting people and making connections with them was one of his very favorite activities.

Training and running races made him not only feel good about himself but happy! Michael was a runner from ages 14 until 55. His heart was extremely strong his entire life, and a doctor was amazed while administering a stress test near the end of his running career that his heart rate never increased even when the treadmill was set at its highest speed! In 1989 while running his first of many Grandma's Marathons in Duluth, MN, his time was just eight minutes shy to qualify for the Boston Marathon! Having his family participate with him in ½ marathons, 5 and 10 K's running events with him through the years made him proud. Along with fellow runners In New Rockford and Grafton, he organized summer road races and tried to get others interested in running too. This man never tired of running! In 2006 he unwilling retired his running shoes due to bad knees.

He chose in 1989 to have his family celebrate North Dakota's Centennial birthday by participating in a family bicycle trip across Highway 200 from the Montana-ND border to the ND-Minnesota border. It still remains as one of his family's fondest memories.

Michael peacefully entered heaven on September 5, 2011 surrounded by the ones who loved him dearly. We know he is wearing golden running shoes and visiting with all his friends and relatives who have gone before him.

His Celebration of a Life Well-lived will be at Calvary Lutheran Church in Grand Forks, ND at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, September 10th. The visitation starts at 10:00. Sharing our memories of Michael follows in the Fellowship Hall with burial services at Hillsboro's Riverside Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials be given to the nursing homes in your own communities. (Michael was formerly on the board of directors and president of the board for Grafton's nursing home. This past year he resided at Altru and Valley Eldercare in Grand Forks.)

To help us celebrate his life, wear your running shoes and comfy clothing!

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Memories Timeline


  1. Grand Forks ND
    Dear Barb and family,

    I am so sorry for your loss! My most sincere sympathies to all of you…

    Jackie Uthus

  2. We, as staff at VEC, most often see our residents at their low and weakest point, so it was so beautiful to see what Michael was like at his highest. Thank you for sharing him with us at VEC, even though we only got to “know” him through your eyes. Your love and commitment as a family has touched us all. Though he was with us only a short time, he will always be part of our 300 unit family.

  3. Towner ND
    I just found out today that Michael passed. So sad. I remenber all of the good times we had growing up in Towner. Michael and Tom visited with us in Towner about 10 years ago, and Michael had to show me his scar on his leg where my dog, Mitsy, had bit him when he was a young kid in Towner. We had a good laugh about that.

  4. New Rockford North Dakota
    Michael was always a very considerate and thoughtful young man and I am certain he carried it with him through his adult life. His family will miss him.
    We played trombone together in high school.

  5. Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there’s a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see.
    Helen Keller

  6. Aneta ND
    Barb and family,
    Our thoughts and prayers are with you. I remember all the stories about Michael you would share with us when we were at Twining together. He was such a great person and will be missed so much. You have been so strong through his illness, keep strong!
    Much love,

  7. Box Elder South DakotaBarb and Family,

    Our thoughts and prayers are with you all at this time. Remember to keep those precious memories close to your hearts, they will bring you smiles someday.

    What a wonderful tribute to a wonderful man. Mike was truly a gentleman.


    Loren and Gwen Scheer

  8. Hillsboro ND
    Barb and family,I didn’t know Michael until after your father and grandfather passed away. Barb, you introduced me to him and I extended my hand in friendship,he took it and told me that”This was a time for hugs.” I got a great big hug from a man I didn’t know! I instantly thought to myself “What a dear man,so kind,so thoughtful!” I also thought how blessed you and your family are to have a husband and father so loving and caring. I cryed when I saw his obituary. My heart aches for you and your family. After reading the obituary, I think back to the “Hug” and my instincts were right on…he was a remarkable man! Barb,Erik,Sara and families, your in my thoughts and prayers. Michael…Thank you for the hug! My Deepest Sympathy,Bev.

  9. Grand Forks ND
    When I read Mike’s name in the obituaries today, I thought it must be wrong, that can’t be the Mike that I know, but then I saw that great picture of him and so very sadly, it was true. When we moved to New Rockford, almost thirty years ago, he impressed me as such a positive, upbeat person, so friendly and welcoming…you wanted to be around all that great energy. He never seemed to lose that energy, even after he became ill. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Barb and their children. He will be greatly missed for what he added to life on earth, but he will never be forgotten. As a young physician starting practice in New Rockford in the early 1980’s, I was presented with an emergency situation in which a young child had cut his fingers off in a piece of machinery. Mike offerd, without hesitation, to fly the child, along with his severed fingers and his mother to Fargo for emergency surgery, which was succesful. Michael’s generosity and kindness wre amazing.

  10. Grafton ND
    Dear Barb and family,

    I thought about making a list of all the ways Mike was a great guy and all the good he did for me and so many others but everyone knows all of that. So let me just say that I feel so blessed to have had Mike as a friend and mentor. He helped me out with advice in many areas of life. Thank you Michael, you were one of a kind. God bless you all.

  11. New Rockford ND
    We will miss that golden personality and his laughter. He was a special person who always left you feeling better after a visit. We will hold our memories with Mike close to our hearts and feel blessed to have had a relationship with him. “Bugs” will be free to enjoy the heavenly rewards that we all look forward too. May God comfort and strengthen you during this time. Mike was blessed to have the support and love of his family always. Hugs to all. Love, Glenn and Mary

  12. Minot North DaktoaMike,
    You were always great to me!
    And whether you knew it or not, a great example.
    Your friend from New Rockford.
    Lorell Seibold

  13. I was searching for Mike on Facebook today (9/7/15) and discovered that he had passed away in 2011. I was a fraternity brother of Mike in the SAE house at UND. Your obituary captured his essence very well. I remember visiting him in New Rockford. I had never heard of or tasted carrot cake until I tried his mother’s. I thought I was in heaven! My senior year, I lived in apartment in the same building as Mike and Lon Olson. They had a kitten named Cooter. I moved in with them for about a month second semester before I left for student teaching. Mike was one of the most cheerful persons I have ever met. I am very sad today, but pleased that he led such a wonderful life.

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