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Friends say goodbye

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Pastor Curtis Privette started the service with a question: “I have some notes written by Don—may I use his name?”

“Call him Varmitt,” a woman answered.

They were referring to Donald Charles Watts Jr., or “Varmitt,” as friends called him. He died in a downtown alley last month after succumbing to freezing temperatures. On May 1, a few dozen of Varmitt’s friends boarded a rented school bus and rode out to the Sunset Memorial Funeral Home to say goodbye.

“Varmitt wasn’t much for conforming,” one man said.

He mentioned Varmitt’s preference for sleeping on the cold pavement with his dogs, Bear and Socks, rather than leave them outside while he slept in the Poverello Center. Another friend laughed as he remembered a story he’d read about Varmitt shortly after his death that described him as a peaceful man.

“Varmitt loved a good scrap,” he remembered. “If he saw someone picking on someone weaker, he’d stand up.”

More than one person said Varmitt had saved their life. One woman said he once pulled her wheelchair out of a snowdrift. If he hadn’t, “I’d probably be in his position,” she said.

Pastor Privette finished the service with Psalm 23. Fitting, he said, for a man who loved the outdoors. And then, Privette asked for a moment of silence. The only sound was the occasional sniffle. As Varmitt’s friends passed the casket, one man tied a black handkerchief to the casket and another man rubbed it once, said, “See ya there, brother,” and turned away.

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