Gretchen Watson, who advocated on behalf of children of divorced or separated parents with the Children’s Rights Council of Northwest Ohio, died Monday in her Sylvania home.
Mrs. Watson, 54, died of cancer that had returned after three years and spread through most of her vital organs, her parents said.
She worked with the children’s council begun by her mother, Margaret Wuwert.
In addition, until her cancer returned in March, she was employed by the law office of Ron Rimelspach, said her father, Reinhold Wuwert.
Mrs. Watson’s involvement with the Children’s Rights Council began when her mother began moving the local chapter from her home into office space donated by Hope United Methodist Church. Mrs. Wuwert said she realized that she had to become better organized.
“She saw that I needed some help,” Mrs. Wuwert said.
Mrs. Watson took to the effort with gusto, Mrs. Wuwert said, and soon began advocating for children before judges and magistrates handling divorce cases and custody issues.
The national council is a children’s advocacy, legislative reform, and access/visitation service.
The local council operates three neutral sites in Toledo where parents in high-conflict divorce cases can take their children for custody exchanges or for supervised visits.
“Children can become a pawn, and that’s where we step in,” Mrs. Wuwert said.
Mrs. Watson testified before a U.S. House panel in Washington in 2007 on divorce’s effects on children.
“She really took on to this cause,” her mother said.
“I had hoped that when I retired, she would step in for me,” said Mrs. Wuwert, who is executive director of the local council and has served as director of access and training for the national council.
At the law office of Ron Rimelspach, which specializes in divorce cases, Mrs. Watson held an administrative position, her father said.
She was born March 5, 1959, and graduated from DeVilbiss High School and the University of Toledo.
Her first full-time job, with Burroughs Corp., led to her courtship with a co-worker, Mike Watson, whom she married in 1987.
She loved to dance as a child and continued that interest, her father said. Last summer, she took a class in American Tribal Belly Dance.
Mr. Wuwert said his daughter had an independent streak.
“Growing up, she could hold herself with the boys,” he said.
“They didn’t push her around, She loved to stand up for herself.”
Mrs. Watson was the only one of the three siblings to complete college, her father said.
She was a member of the First Unitarian Church of Toledo, where she played in the hand bell choir.
Surviving are her husband, Mike; daughter, Anna; son, Jacob; parents, Margaret and Reinhold (Ron) Wuwert; sister Sarah Roth, and brothers, R.A. (Butch) and Tim Wuwert.
Visitation is 2 to 8 p.m. Friday at Hope United Methodist Church, 4069 West Sylvania Ave., with a memorial service at 11 a.m. Saturday at First Unitarian Church, 3205 Glendale Ave.
The family suggests tributes to the Children’s Rights Council, First Unitarian Church, or Hospice of Northwest Ohio.
Contact Jim Sielicki at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6050.