Harry Donald Welch
October 10, 1929 – January 30, 2021
91 years young
We are saddened by the passing of a dear husband, father, grandfather, uncle, father-in-law, brother, and friend to many on January 30, 2021, at 9:15 A.M., due to complications from COVID-19.
Don was born in Rush Center, Kansas, on October 10, 1929, to Harry E. and Violet Welch (Gibson), just two weeks before the 1929 stock market crash, which spurred the Great Depression. The oldest of three, Don took on family responsibilities at an early age, taking on work to help the family make ends meet. The era shaped Don; in his infamous and oft-repeated “ketchup story,” he described having been stranded at a train station with no money, resorting to concocting “tomato soup” out of ketchup and hot water. (We will never know if this is true or urban legend.)
Don’s family ultimately settled in McPherson, Kansas, where Don met his true love and the woman who would later become his wife, Phyllis Raleigh. Don graduated from McPherson High School in 1948. After graduation, he enlisted in the military; in his telling, the recruiter for the U.S. Army had gone home for the day, so Don enlisted in the U.S. Navy instead. His first tour of duty was on board the U.S.S. Midway, now a floating museum in San Diego, where Don served as a volunteer docent into his 80s.
Don repeatedly asked Phyllis to marry him, both in person and through several love letters sent from his deployment overseas. She repeatedly declined, however; according to Phyllis, she was “too young” and had a lot of living to do. When she was 21, she finally relented. What made her change her mind? As she tells it, she was “getting a little older and didn’t want to lose that guy…”I loved him!” The pair were married in June 1952 in Jacksonville, Florida. They were married for 68 years.
Their first and only child, Teresa (Terri), was born in 1956, in Honolulu, Hawaii, where Don was stationed at the time. His military service led the family to relocate to Memphis, Tennessee; Cubi Point, Bataan, Philippines; Pensacola, Florida; and finally, San Diego, where they settled in 1964. There, Don was stationed at NAS Miramar (now MCAS) and served in squadron VF-96. He served during the Vietnam War, aboard the U.S.S. Ranger and the U.S.S. Enterprise. Don was a commissioned officer and after serving faithfully and honorably in the U.S. Navy, he retired as a Lieutenant in 1978.
Eager to continue his education, and with the help of the G.I. Bill, Don enrolled at San Diego State University, where his daughter was also a student. But this did not cause either party too much embarrassment; knowing his daughter’s schedule, Don would always wait for her in the quad and invite her to lunch. Sometimes, she even accepted!
After earning his college degree, Don began his second career, as a teacher of math and industrial arts. For 10 years, he taught students in San Diego, at Morse and Montgomery High Schools. Don retired in 1989, around the time his first and only granddaughter, Cameron, was born. Don was a doting grandfather who shared with Cameron his love of fishing, golfing, and public service. They went on annual fishing trips, with mixed success, though Don once offered to vouch for her as an accomplished “fisherperson.” He always asked whether she was “in charge yet” of the organization where she worked, even on her second day on the job. And Don and his granddaughter both possessed a love of dessert: Many brownie sundaes and mud pies were split between the two of them during his lifetime.
After Don retired, he and Phyllis remained active by traveling throughout the United States and Europe, fishing, and playing golf. Don golfed weekly with the “Retired Old Duffers” (RODS), and he and Phyllis were actively involved with the “Jack and Jill” and “Guys and Dolls” golfing groups at MCAS Miramar Memorial Golf Course and Admiral Baker, where they made many great friends. Don liked to tell people that his golf score was getting closer and closer to his age. Even in the last years of his life, he was longing to get back out on the golf course, or go fishing and “catch the big one.”
Anyone lucky enough to have known Don would have experienced his always-positive attitude; he’d answer any “How are you?” with “Good and getting better!” under all circumstances. The ever-present twinkle in his eye led him to convincingly dress as Santa Clause, on more than one occasion. Don will be remembered for always encouraging his family to “look at both sides of the story,” even in politics, much to the dismay of his granddaughter and late brother-in-law, Arthur. He was a fiercely proud American, but he was proudest of his family.
Don is survived by his loving wife, Phyllis Welch of San Diego, CA; his daughter Terri and son-in-law Jay Thomas of Del Mar, CA; granddaughter Cameron Bell of Washington, D.C.; sister Dorothy Miller of McPherson, Kansas; and many nieces and one nephew living in Kansas, Colorado, and Oregon. Don is preceded in death by his parents, brother Bob, brother-in-law Arthur, and sister-in-law Geneva.
Don’s final resting place will be Miramar National Cemetery where he will have his long-awaited dream of a military flyover each day. He was a brave man who will be terribly missed. A celebration of life will be planned at a later date.
No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
Harry Donald Welch
February 16, 2021
A wonderful tribute to a man who was truly one of the nicest people I've ever met. Don was the person we all hope to become: warm, funny, humble ... not to mention a great story teller. The schools where he taught were fortunate to have such a positive role model for their students and staff. And he was blessed to share a full and happy life with people he loved.
February 15, 2021
Uncle Don, such a loving uncle to me, my sisters and cousins. Most of all I remember what a devoted father he always was to Terri. Aunt Phil has always been the love of his life, and Terri was absolutely everything to him.....These are the things I remember as a child. One of my memories isn’t mine at all but a story daddy told me. Uncle Don was daddy’s big brother and as they do, little brothers always want to be included and pester big brothers. I will always remember the story from daddy’s childhood when Uncle Don and a friend were going off exploring and daddy kept following and wouldn’t leave them alone. They had brought a bunch of cans of Vienna sausages with them and the two older boys made daddy eat all of the Vienna sausage. During my life, I never saw daddy eat another Vienna sausage. Now I may have the story completely wrong, but that’s a memory I have. Daddy never stopped looking up to his older brother, always wanting his approval. I never realized the resemblance of the two brothers until the day of daddy’s funeral and I looked up at Uncle Don and saw daddy. It was the eyes. the sparkling, loving, ever so accepting eyes. Whenever I think of uncle Don now, I see those eyes. I find comfort in knowing that Uncle Don is in Paradise now with his parents, Uncle Art and my parents..... and probably being pestered, just a little bit, by his adoring little brother.
Uncle Don will be missed greatly and forever held in our hearts.