“Peter’s notion was that after some training as the Rockport reporter, I should cover the waterfront — never mind that I was a Midwesterner and didn’t know a dragger from a dogfish,” Carton wrote in an email. “I would learn and I would have fun. I would interview guys in dive bars and in the fish plants; I would go to George’s Bank. Peter dispensed much-needed advice, support and a ton of laughs.”
Kevin Sullivan, senior correspondent at The Washington Post, worked as an intern at Peabody Times in 1981 and then as a staff writer at the Gloucester Times from 1982 to 1985, covering Rockport and the waterfront. He, along with his wife, Mary Jordan, won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting at the Post in a series about the Mexican criminal justice system.
“Peter was a real inspiration to a whole generation of us who passed through the Gloucester Times,” Sullivan said. “He was a mentor and a friend. He, more than anybody I’ve ever known, kind of put the fun in journalism. He had such infectious energy, and he got us all to work incredibly hard and absolutely fall in love with this business. He had that kind of renegade spirit that is just really attractive in a leader and you wanted to follow that guy.
“I have this enduring image of Peter driving around in that old blue convertible with his hair blowing in the wind — and just smiling,” Sullivan said. “He knew how to have fun, but he worked hard and inspired you with his energy and image — and that’s a rare thing. I wouldn’t be where I am without Peter.”
Watson contacted a reporter about a week ago to share an “obit” he wrote knowing his death was imminent. He highlighted the dozens of awards earned by the Gloucester Times, where he cheerfully pounded nails into the wall to hang the awards, which eventually grew to 35 feet long.