WALKER COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) — Popular Walker County columnist Rick Watson, who wrote for a variety of Central Alabama publications, died suddenly early Thursday morning, the Daily Mountain Eagle reports. He was 69.

Watson, the brains behind the Eagle’s weekend “Life 101” column, died following a short illness, according to the newspaper. Writing from his 12-acre farm, his work focused on “observing the joys of rural life,” his colleagues say in their tribute published Thursday.

Watson had served as a contributor to the Eagle’s Lifestyle section since 2007. In later years, he became a part-time reporter and photographer, covering stories for the East Walker County area, including Dora, his hometown. He was well-regarded for his profile features of local characters.

Watson’s work can also be found in the following publications: 280 Living, the Tannehill Traders in Birmingham, 79 Magazine, Village Living in Mountain Brook, the Hoover Sun, the Homewood Star, the Birmingham News, the Birmingham Post-Herald, Senior Living, the Atmore Advance, and the Birmingham Arts Journal. 

In addition to his newspaper and magazine work, Watson maintained a blog, authored two books, and taught computer and business courses at Bevill State Community College for some time. He managed an AT&T data center for 33 years until his retirement in 2010. He was also an avid beekeeper, grass cutter, and guitar picker.

Watson leaves behind his “high school sweetheart” and wife of more than 40 years, Jilda—as well as a large community of fans, including the folks at CBS 42.

His final newspaper story ran Thursday in the Eagle, and he has a piece which will be published posthumously in Walker Magazine.