She Was ‘Always Taking Care of People’

Family remembers mother, grandmother who died early in pandemic

Carol Wilson Watkins, a nurse by trade, was “always taking care of people.”

“She was good that way as a mom, too,” one of her three daughters, Ashley Watkins McDowell, said. “She was that person that when I needed something, she was there. She just kind of stepped in and did what she needed to do for us. She was my go-to. She was like that for my whole family. She had the best smile.”

McDowell is a co-founder of Turner McDowell Rowan family law, and one of her sisters also is a lawyer.

After moving to Dallas, Watkins worked in pediatric nursing at Children’s Medical Center and Pediatric Associates of Dallas before becoming a consultant on medical issues for the law firm Baron & Budd.

McDowell said Watkins enjoyed lunches at the Zodiac Room at NorthPark Center and celebrating family birthdays.

“She always wanted to make all of our birthdays special,” McDowell said. “She loved her friends; she loved being around people.”

Watkins retired about six years ago and was diagnosed with dementia about four years ago.

McDowell said the family moved her mother into assisted living around March of 2020, and her facility was quickly closed to visitors.

McDowell got a call from her mother about a week later and learned something was wrong. 

Watkins contracted COVID-19 and was hospitalized after her oxygen levels dipped dangerously low.

“I know doctors were doing everything they could,” McDowell said. “It’s just an awful thing for my mom being this caregiver that she was to be in a hospital alone.”

Watkins died March 31, 2020, at 73. 

“It was hard on all of us, and I think we all handled it in different ways,” McDowell said of her family. “You’re alone, and you have your family, but it’s just sort of surreal when you’re sheltering in place, and it can kind of seem not real because everybody’s just by themselves, but I think when we did start kind of easing into doing things it became real again.”

She also reflected on her mother’s influence.

“She did everything as a mom that she could for us even if that meant sacrificing something of her own, and I probably see that more as a mom, and I think that influenced us,” McDowell said. “I would generally say she taught me to be strong and independent and caring, and I hope I do all of those things in her honor for my whole life.”

Rachel Snyder

Rachel Snyder, deputy editor at People Newspapers, joined the staff in 2019, returning to her native Dallas-Fort Worth after starting her career at community newspapers in Oklahoma. One of her stories won first place in its category in the Oklahoma Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest in 2018. She’s a fan of puns and community journalism, not necessarily in that order. You can reach her at

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