Balloon launch held in tribute to late balloonist

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CALEDONIA, Mich. -- Dozens of people paid tribute both on the ground and in the sky for the late hot air balloonist Robert "Woody" Watson.

"He was just a good man, and a God-loving man, and it was so much fun to be with him," said John Burri. "News of his passing it hit a lot of us quite hard."

Burri described Woody's passion for hot air ballooning as infectious, and that made the experience that much more enjoyable for first-time and long-time passengers.

"Been up several times with him. We've traveled to some of the events he took part in. Ya know, he was just a good man and a God-loving man, and it was so much fun to be with him," Burri said.

Watson's widow Vicky remembered how his passion for ballooning began. "I think it was 1980. He saw his first hot air balloon, and he thought that would be a neat way to see the countryside."

But sadly, Woody Watson didn't make his scheduled flight on August 6, 2016. Watson was scheduled to fly with a group of balloonists and passengers, but suffered a fatal heart attack at the age of 61, Vicky remembered.

Sunday's tribune was one year later. "It's his year anniversary in heaven," Vicky said. "He has a lot of close friends that he trained that are here and miss him. I think they miss him almost as much as I do."

"Whoever comes came because of their love for my husband Woody," she said.

"It's really nice to have this tribute for him today," Burri said,  "and I think it's comforting to those that knew him and comforting for his wife to know how much Woody was loved."

Vicky said Woody once had the privilege of having former President Gerald Ford as a passenger for a balloon he tethered.

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