Bishop perishes in fall during rappelling trip with youth

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A bishop who perished in a fall during an Oct. 21 rappelling expedition with Scouts in his ward was described by his stake president as having “all the characteristics of an ideal bishop: open, friendly, caring, very service-oriented, and the youth absolutely loved him.”

Timothy M. Watabe, bishop of the Dublin 1st Ward, died at the scene of the accident after falling about 50 feet, said President Richard G. Welch of the Columbus Ohio North Stake in a telephone interview with the Church News on Oct. 25.

Bishop Watabe was on a campout trip at Edison Hollow in Ohio’s Hocking Hills State Park with two other men and six youth from the ward.

“He was setting up ropes on Saturday morning for a rappelling activity,” President Welch said. “He was certified in rappelling and had done it many times before. Being in the outdoors with the young men was what he liked to do.”

President Welch said witnesses at the scene are not sure what happened. One of the men in the party had turned to talk to one of the youth, then turned back and saw the bishop going over the edge of a cliff.

Bishop Watabe had been serving for almost exactly a year and had served in the stake Young Men presidency prior to that, so he was well known in the stake.

“He was always happy and upbeat,” President Welch said. “In conversations, he was always interested in you and would ask questions about you. He was just a great guy. It’s a big loss.”

Bishop Watabe and his wife, Joleene, have four children. The two eldest have served missions in Japan, and Bishop Watabe’s parents are serving a mission there now, the stake president said.

“He was a healthy guy and just full of life,” he said. “It’s a great shock to have him taken so suddenly.”

President Welch said that, while the pain of this loss is greatly felt by many at this time, a knowledge of the gospel “helps you get through it and look forward with hope, with what we know of eternal families.”

Ward and stake members and others who looked up to him expect to see and be reunited with him in the hereafter, the stake president said.

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