New Canaan Old Timers Association Spotlight: Bea James


Bea James—known to many New Canaanites today by her married name, Bea Watkins—could very well have been lost in the considerable shadow of her brother Lem, one of the greatest New Canaan High School athletes who ever put on a uniform.

Instead, she forged her own niche into Rams history, channeling her family ties as inspiration.

Bea James senior portrait. Photo: NCHS Perannos - 1970

Bea James senior portrait. Photo: NCHS Perannos – 1970

“My brother, Lem James, and I enjoyed spending the years together in the same graduating class,” Bea James Watkins wrote in a bio submitted recently to the New Canaan Old Timer’s Association. “I loved watching him play sports and took great pride in cheering him on as he played football and basketball over the years. I couldn’t have been prouder. It definitely made my sports play all that much more fun, and nurtured my competitive nature.”

Her instincts on the field of play made James a star multi-sport athlete at NCHS, earning varsity letters in field hockey, basketball, softball and track. During her senior year, the Rams field hockey and basketball teams each went 10-1. That year James also found time to cheer on her brother’s 1969 FCIAC and State championship football team as a member of the NCHS cheerleading squad—an almost unimaginable feat today, especially given the amount of single-sport specialization that permeates throughout high school athletics.

Bea James Watkins and seven other sports figures from New Canaan’s past will be honored at a celebration on Sunday, Sept. 20 at Waveny House.

The 1970 NCHS Girls Basketball squad went 10-1 with Bea James (front row, right) leading the way. Photo: NCHS Perannos - 1970

The 1970 NCHS Girls Basketball squad went 10-1 with Bea James (front row, right) leading the way. Photo: NCHS Perannos – 1970

After graduating high school in 1970, James spent years in retail, finance and commercial real estate. Despite a busy career that also included many years spent in marketing, she was able to balance a career while continuing her involvement with athletics, playing tennis and softball for several years. New Canaan had a robust woman’s softball league for many years, and James’ ‘Emmons and Wilson’ squad won multiple titles during her time with the team.

In 2010, James returned to New Canaan after accepting the position of Office Manager for the New Canaan Recreation Department.

“It has been wonderful to slow down from the pace of corporate life and work with old friends from my New Canaan past,” James said. “The best part of the job is reconnecting with parents and children from families that I have known for many years.”

James currently lives in Norwalk with her husband Bill (Butch) Watkins, and continues to enjoy valuable time with family and friends.

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