Judge Prather passed away peacefully on Dec. 19, 2014 in Meridian,
Idaho. Watt was born Oct. 12, 1925 in Gooding, Idaho to Frances Fern and Van
Benton Prather. He grew up on a farm and
was very active in 4H, particularly in animal production. He exhibited in many fairs across southern
Idaho and at livestock shows at Portland, Ogden, Salt Lake, and San Francisco
World’s Fair. In 1941, he was named Idaho 4H State Champion in Livestock
production. Also in 1941 he was awarded
a full scholarship by Union Pacific to study agriculture. He declined the scholarship, with his
father’s blessing because he wanted to study Law. He graduated valedictorian
from Gooding High School at age 16 and enrolled at the University of Idaho. In February of 1943 he enlisted in the United
States Navy Air Corp. He always said, “He
joined the Navy to see the world and they sent me to Pocatello”. The experience in the Navy took him to many
locations in the United States which left him with the firm conviction that he
wanted to live in Idaho. His time in the
Navy also included schooling at Columbia University in New York. He did not
finish flight training because Japan surrendered and the Navy did not need
pilots anymore. He was next sent to
Shanghai and China and was made a Communications Officer on an LST. The LST
carried United Nations Relief supplies for China up the Yangtze River, Hankou
and Nanking then transported Army vehicles for Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek down
river as he retreated before the forces of Mao Zedong.
After he returned to the United States from World War II he
enrolled at the University of Idaho, College of Law, graduating in 1949 fulfilling
a lifelong dream to become a lawyer at age 23.
In December 1948 he married Margaret
McNamara of Great Falls Montana and had four children: Van, Ryan, Cory, and
After graduation he entered practice with Hardy Lyons and
later with Peter B. Wilson in Bonners Ferry.
That partnership lasted until he was appointed to District Judge in
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The law practice
flourished and he served as City Attorney for Bonners Ferry and County Attorney
for Boundary County. In 1950 he
purchased the controlling interest in Boundary Abstract Company LTD which he
honed and managed until June of 1966. In
addition, he operated a cattle ranch near the Canadian Border.
In 1960 Governor Robert E. Smylie appointed him State Senator of Boundary
County. He was thereafter elected to
serve terms in 1961 and 1963. He was chairman of the Senate Committees on
Industry and Labor, and Commerce and Development, as well as a member of the
State Affairs Committee and of the committee on Counties and
Municipalities. He was Vice President of
the Idaho State Prosecuting Attorneys association and was President of the
Eighth Judicial District Bar association.
He was a member of Phi Alpha Delta legal fraternity, the Elks, past
president of Kiwanis and active in the American Legion and the Chamber of
Commerce. In addition, Watt was also involved
in various committees such as Court Modernization, Comprehensive Court Planning
and the Governor’s Council for Criminal Justice.
In December of 1965
Governor Smylie appointed him as District Judge for the 1
District. This required him to move to
Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho. He served as
Judge until he retired in 1986. In many
of those years he served as Administrative Judge. He was an active member of court reform and
co-authored Civil Rules of Procedures, Idaho Jury Instructions, Idaho Trial
Judges Manual and Sentencing Manual for Idaho Judges.
After retirement Watt still continued to enjoy the
profession he loved so much. He became
busy as an arbitrator, helping parties come to mutual decisions outside of the
court. He also enjoyed teaching Law classes at North Idaho College. He loved giving back and helping the new students
discover their passion for law and politics.
Watt married Jeannie Cannon in 1972 and they had one daughter,
Leslie Anne. They built a house that
Watt designed overlooking the beautiful Coeur d’Alene Lake, painting it his
favorite color red. When the judges robe
came off on the weekends he spent most of his time enjoying and caring for his
property and was always trying to find new ways to keep the deer from eating his
garden. He would never tire of seeing
the eagles fly over Wolf Lodge Bay.
Summers were always filled with his love of travel with a long vacation
to new places and museums to explore. After retirement he and Jeannie moved to
Hayden Lake, ID where he once again became involved in the community as
President of the Neighborhood Association.
They purchased a motorhome and spent several years traveling and
enjoying the warm winters in Arizona.
When they were ready to settle down they moved to Meridian, ID to be
near his daughter and son-n-law, Leslie and Brad, and his two grandsons, Lane
and Lucas. Watt and Jeannie spent many
happy and proud hours watching the boys’ soccer games. One of his proudest moments before he passed
was seeing Lane’s Letter of Intent to play soccer in college and hearing that
Lucas was nominated to attend an Engineering/Math conference at Berkley.
Watt is survived by his wife Jeannie and his constant
companion Beau, three sons; Van of California, Ryan of Oregon and Cory of Washington,
and two daughters Marla (Stan) Slutz of Nevada, and Leslie (Brad) Thorne of Kuna, Idaho and
his two grandsons of which he was very proud, Lane and Lucas Thorne.
He was preceded in death by his parents Van and Fern
Prather; sister Johnette Braga of Gooding and Arizona and brother Lt. Col.
Eugene C Prather of Spokane, Washington and Oceanside, California and many
nieces and nephews.
The family would like to express their gratitude to Treasure
Valley Hospice and to the staff at Spring Creek Manor at Calderwood for their
many kindnesses and care.
Services for the Honorable Watt E Prather will be Monday,
Dec. 29, 2014 at Alden-Waggoner Funeral Chapel in Boise, ID at 1:00pm. A committal service will be held at the Idaho
State Veterans Cemetery at 3:00pm. A
viewing will be held on Sunday, Dec. 28, 2014 from 5:00-7:00pm at
Alden-Waggoner Funeral Chapel.