(Dec. 2) KING CITY, Calif. — At 27, Josh Watts was reaping the rewards of the enthusiasm with which he threw himself into every project that came his way.

He had a house. He had a serious girlfriend who made both a wonderful foil and wonderful partner. He had a gaggle of friends from high school and college, who, like him, had remained in or near the small, south Monterey County town where they grew up.

And at 27, Watts already had years of experience in the produce business. The operations manager for his father’s Salinas-based carrot company, Cream of the Crop, Watts was being groomed to follow in the footsteps of his father, Charles Watts, president of the company. He had already earned the respect of those he did business with for his devotion and hard work ethos.

But at 27, on a winding road an hour north of his home, Charles Joseph “Josh” Watts died Nov. 22. The automobile accident near Gilroy that claimed his life also bereft the produce industry of one of its rising characters and Monterey County of one of its most dedicated volunteers.

Quick with a grin and full of tall tales of Mark Twain proportions, Watts devoted much of his free time to the King City Young Farmers, a social and service organization that raises funds for community groups and schools. The first Thursday of every month, Watts appeared at the planning dinners for the Young Farmers, and when the group set up charity events, he could be found doing whatever work needed to be done. He also served as secretary of the group.

Like his father, Watts was a dedicated outdoorsman. A member of the National Rifle Association, Ducks Unlimited and the California Waterfowl Association, Watts loved to hunt, fish and boat.

A music fan, Watts generally had one setting on his stereo: loud. It kind of went with his personality, which was exuberant, friends said. Watts had a charisma that made new people feel like old friends and old friends feel like family, several friends said at a Nov. 26 funeral attended by hundreds.When it came time to work, he worked just as hard as he played.

Cliff Kirkpatrick, general manager of Cream of the Crop, watched Watts grow from an adventurous kid to an enthusiastic adult who was serious about the produce industry and Cream of the Crop.

“He was a really good person and hard worker,” Kirkpatrick said. “He was trying hard to learn all about the business, and Charlie was helping him through the paces.”

Kirkpatrick said both the community and the industry lost when Watts died.