Beautiful Minds - Eugene Watts

For Eugene Watts, 74, line dancing has been his lifeline for over 20 years. 
 
Originally from Charlottesville, Virginia, Eugene moved to New York at the age of 17 with dreams of attending college. However, he was soon faced with the responsibility of finding work to help support his sister, a decision he does not regret and that led him to discover a love for haircutting and skin care which Eugene credits for allowing him to meet different people from all walks of life. 
 
A caring member of his community, he mentored 32 young men who went on to become barbers and stylists themselves. Eugene impacted lives across generations over his 52 year career as a stylist. 
 
He lives an active life and for years loved to run and ride bikes. A supreme marathon runner and cyclist he led his long distance biking club on a 125 mile ride in 1991, not knowing it would be his last ride; a ride that would change his life. 
 
He looked back to check on his fellow riders and lost control of his bicycle. Eugene woke up in a hospital three days later with severe head trauma, loss of vision in his right eye, and loss of feeling on the left side of his body. Eugene was devastated to learn that he would not be able to ride again. His doctors said that playing chess and doing cross word puzzles would help him gain his cognitive skills back. However, they did very little to lift his spirits.  
 
Eugene found chess and cross word puzzles tedious, boring, and not stimulating enough. “I wanted to move my body.” One of his clients suggested that he take a line dancing class at Mt. Vernon High School, in the Bronx. After his first class he was hooked. Line dancing did for Eugene what physical therapy was unable to do. “Line dancing helped me with my balance and the feeling on my left side eventually came back!” 
 
Eugene has been line dancing ever since. He started teaching classes after one of his instructors was no longer able to teach. “I was the only student who could remember the routine, step-by-step.”  He currently teaches line dancing to other older adults in senior centers throughout the Bronx. “Some of the nicest people I’ve met were in my line dancing classes.”
In 2003, Eugene formed a line dancing group, The Sassy Sage Line Dancers. “I love to entertain. It gives me great joy.” His dance group performs in senior centers across New York. His love for dancing is so great and contagious that his family joins his “line” at family functions. 
 
For people who want to live a fruitful life Eugene says to “eat properly, avoid smoking and drinking. Get plenty of sleep!”
 
“I read as much as I can and I try to stay involved with activities that are both mentally and physically stimulating.”
 

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