Arliss Watson (Shell)
Arliss Shell Watson, 85, of Corsicana, Texas, ended her journey on April 23 with her family by her
side in College Station of complications from a stroke.
Born in Mexia, Texas, she grew up in Corsicana and married Harold “Toppy” Watson of Corsicana in 1952. The couple had been high school sweethearts at Corsicana High School and both graduated from Texas Tech University. They loved to dance, and their perfectly matched steps and flowing style provided a visual demonstration that they were soul mates. He preceded her in death in 2005.
Her life took an adventurous turn in 1960 when Toppy’s job in the oil industry took them to a small village on Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela, with their two young sons. They lived in Venezuela for more than 25 years, adapting quickly to a new life with few modern conveniences in a culture that they grew to love. They moved to the city of Maracaibo for their final years in the country, where their home was the hub of social activity for a tightly knit international community. After leaving South
America, they lived in Falfurrias, Odessa, and Austin before returning to Corsicana in 1991.
Arliss was a lifelong world traveler, from her first overseas voyage on the Queen Mary to Europe as a teenager. She traveled extensively with Toppy and her family, planning trips through South America and Europe meticulously herself in the days before internet travel sites. She always preferred “local color” over luxury, which could include sleeping on straw-stuffed mattresses at an inn off the beaten path and hauling suitcases on foot rather than taking cabs. Later she traveled with her sister Sandra Curtis of Corsicana. The two sisters made a number of talks at Corsicana’s
Kinsloe House women’s club about their far-flung tours throughout Asia, Russia, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. They entertained their audience with photos of themselves riding elephants and camels, scaling rugged mountains, and scenes of colorful markets and ancient ruins in exotic locales. The two continued to travel together until Arliss was in her eighties, when she finally put away her passport. She kept a long shelf of thick scrapbooks bulging with photos, notes, and mementos that
carefully documented each trip.
She was a rare combination of the meticulous and the creative, both practical and artistic, a doer and a dreamer. She had a strong head for business and balanced her checkbook to the penny every month, but had a discriminating eye for color and design, played the piano by ear and had a passion for the theater, both amateur and professional productions. She traveled to New York and London to see plays, often two in one day, as well as attending the theater in Dallas and Corsicana. Her
dramatic flair was on display when she acted in lead parts in several productions of the Maracaibo Players, but she also sewed costumes and worked on sets with Toppy behind the scene. A voracious reader, she was a member of two Corsicana book clubs.
Arliss was a devoted member of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Corsicana. Her daily schedule revolved around church activities. She prepared meals for holidays and funerals, delivered food to shut-ins, decorated the church, purchased flowers, served as an elder and on church committees, attended study groups, taught children’s Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, and watched children when parents attended counseling at the church’s Child and Family Program for families
in need, which she was instrumental in founding. The family often joked that she was there whenever the church doors opened. She was a supporter of the Presbyterian Children’s Homes and Services of Texas, as well as many other charities assisting children, the needy and veterans. She never wanted credit or recognition for her service.
Arliss continued to amaze all who met her with her vitality and youthful appearance until the end, with her trademark red hair hardly showing a trace of gray. She lived completely independently until she suffered a stroke on March 30 while shopping at a garden center for ferns for her patio.
Arliss was the daughter of Arthur R. Lock and Emma Eugenia “Jean” Smith of Mexia, Texas, who named her after the 1930s British actor George Arliss. Her stepfather was Dr. William Shell of Corsicana. Her survivors include two sons, Harold “Tres” Watson III and wife Margaret of Dallas; William Shell Watson and wife Ruth of College Station, and grandson Chris Watson; sister Sandra Shell Curtis of Corsicana; sister-in-law Bunny Watson Heroman of Baton Rouge, La.; and a number of nieces and nephews and their children, with whom she maintained close relationships.
Visitation will be held 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday at Corley Funeral Home in Corsicana. The funeral will be 2 p.m. Saturday at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Corsicana with Dr. John Blewitt officiating. Burial will be in Oakwood Cemetery in Corsicana. Memorials may be made in her name to the Presbyterian Children’s Homes and Services of Texas at 5920 W. William Cannon Drive, Austin, Texas 78749
An online guestbook is available at www.corleyfuneralhome.com and selecting the Arliss S. Watson obituary.