by Rob Westendorf
Active in QCW from its inception until his death in 1992, Watson started his racing career in Hartford Connecticut at the age of 20 in 1938. In 1941 and 1942 he won the Connecticut State Championships for the time trial. This was at a time when results were determined by averaging speeds for three different time trials of 12.5, 25 and 50 miles.
In 1943 he moved to Detroit, and became active with the Eastside Wheelmen for years. Into the late 1940’s, Watson was nationally known both as a racer and as a freelance writer. He sat on the National Board and Governing Body of Bicycle Racing, and was secretary of the New England Federation of Bicycle Clubs.
Watson came to Cincinnati in 1966 as a technical writer with Cincinnati Milacron, from which he retired in 1982. Watson suffered a major heart attack in 1970, from which he battled back to ride again within two years.
One of the most prolific attendee of the Cleves Time Trial series, nearly 200 rides, Watson became a tradition as “the first rider out.” In 1989 he earned a bronze medal in the Senior Olympics and rode his final Cleves Time Trial on August 15, of the same year.
A letter to Queen City Wheels dated 8-22-92 from Steven Paul Lansky
To the members of the Queen City Wheels,
When I read recently in The Cincinnati Enquirer that Watson N. Nordquist had died of heart failure at the age of 74 I felt moved to write to you of the man I knew as I grew up cycling here in Cincinnati.
Leslie Gesell, John Gilmer, Bill Gallagher were active racers in the early seventies, all full of encouragement by example, pushing younger riders like myself, Jon Spicker, Michael Carey, Dell Williamson, Daniel Biehl, and Phil Kennedy, III along the course of active cycle racing. Watson was the one who talked to us, coached us in ways that the more active cyclists couldn’t. I remember a balding, short, grey-haired man in glasses, a sort of Corporal O’Reily in appearance (from the TV series MASH) who had old machines, and practical advice. At a criterium in Columbus, Ohio, Watson stood at the edge of the course shouting encouragement to me. “Get the next wheel,” he said, “Work together.” The idea of working together as a team was hard to realize, though I now believe the Wheels did this on many occasions without deliberate conscious intent. We trained together and raced together with a keen competitive edge and an affection for one another. We also yelled at one another and fought among ourselves, part of keeping that edge.
In the early nineteen eighties I encountered Watson again. He had been cycling all along. I had taken up cycle camping, having traversed the Adirondacks and Rockies both. My circle of friends had changed and yet after being out of Cincinnati for seven years, on return, Watson was still challenging young riders and encouraging me to return to winning ways. I had taken up cigarette smoking, Watson gently said, “You will have to make a choice between cigarettes and cycling.” Now, having quit smoking, I understand the price I paid.
Watson was a genuine man, and a life-long cyclist. My regrets extend to his living relatives and I mourn the loss of the Queen City Wheels’ all time cyclist.
Steven Paul Lansky