Roger P. Welch ’45

Roger P. Welch ’45 died on October 30, 2010, in Portland, Maine.

(The following was provided by the Portland Herald Press on November 1, 2010)

WESTBROOK — Roger P. Welch, lifelong resident of Westbrook, and of The Vineyards community in Naples, Fla., during his retirement, died peacefully on Oct. 30, 2010, at Maine Medical Center with his loving family at his bedside.

Roger was born on July 16, 1923, the oldest son of Grover and Hazel (Eldridge) Welch. He attended Westbrook schools and graduated in 1941 from Westbrook High. That fall he began his college career at Bowdoin College, but other priorities engulfed the country at that time, and Roger enlisted in the Army Air Force in September, 1942. He served stateside in California and Texas, much of the time as an airplane engine mechanic (though later evidence showed he did not bring that particular aptitude back with him into civilian life). Roger was honorably discharged in March 1946 with the rank of sergeant.

After his graduation from Bowdoin, and with an interest in following his father into the legal profession, Roger received his law degree from Boston University Law School. Despite opportunities in the big city, he decided to return to Westbrook to join the family practice. A small sign on the Main Street office came down and was replaced with a new one declaring, ‘Welch & Welch, Attorneys at Law.’ Later in life, Roger said often that he learned more under the guidance of his beloved father than he ever did in law school, and he regularly quoted to his children the gems of wisdom he learned, beginning always with, ‘You know, my father always said.’

Life became complete for young Attorney Welch over the next few years. In 1953 he married the girl he would love for every day of the next fifty-seven years, and later adopted the two children who would become the pride of his life. Roger first knew Shirley Foye in grade school, as the cute girl who walked his younger sister Marilyn to school every day. After his years away at school and the military, his return to Westbrook meant the discovery of the vivacious young woman that little girl had become, and they began dating. Roger Welch and Shirley Louise Foye were married at St. Mary’s Church on May 9, 1953.

Roger and Shirley adopted their daughter Kelly in 1959 and son Kevin in 1962. Year after year, heartfelt birthday and holiday cards from his kids always have one theme: to never let him forget how blessed they feel to have been raised in his close and loving family.

Roger was seen by all as a gentle and well-liked man. He was fondly known as the guy who always sported a perfectly knotted bow tie. And many townsfolk remembered him as the one who, in tougher times when he sensed a $20 invoice for his services would mean a tight week, would accept freshly baked bread or other homemade goodies as ‘paid in full.’ He was a leader in the local legal community, and served as president of the Cumberland County Bar Association in 1976. Roger retired from his practice in 1990, closing the doors seventy years after Grover Welch had opened them on the very same section of Main Street.

Like his father before him, Roger became active in the community of Westbrook. He was a member of the local chapter of Kiwanis for over forty years, and often was the lead organizer of their charitable events and activities. He is well remembered for his role as chairman of the Westbrook Urban Renewal Authority, which directed the remaking of the downtown area, a twenty-year project from its conceptual origin in the early sixties to completion in the early 1980s. While the urban renewal project had both supporters and detractors, there was a unified respect within the city for the man who selflessly led the commission for a decade and a half.

Leisure for Roger and his family came with two main themes. One was summering at Higgins Beach in the cottage that has been in his family since the early 1940s. His children and now his grandchildren have built warm, lifelong memories of a slower, simpler part of life on the sands of that small slice of paradise. The second revolved around his sixty+ years of membership at Portland Country Club. Shirley and Roger have both played golf avidly all their lives, and they’ve enjoyed the social events of the club with their very close Westbrook circle of friends and many others from around the Portland area. In 2003, the Club hosted their 50th anniversary gala, where a large crowd of family and lifelong friends gathered to celebrate with stories and laughter the lives of this most cheerful couple.

Roger enjoyed a very active retirement with his wife, family and friends: winter in Naples, summer at Higgins Beach, and the shoulder seasons in Westbrook. Their nearly twenty years as residents of The Vineyards have been among the most enjoyable of their lives. Blessed all his life with good health, he and Shirley have played skillful golf three to four days a week, well into their 80s. His only regret might be the day nine years ago when at age 78 he lipped out an eight-foot putt on the 18th at Naples. The tap-in left him with a score of 79, just one stroke away from shooting his age.

Roger was best known as the ultimate people person, a man who never missed an opportunity to talk with anyone he met, from every walk of life, and ask questions about their lives. His genuine curiosity about others reflected his belief that everyone has life experiences to share and that he was enriched by knowing more about other folks.

Roger Welch was a man of principle and wisdom, kindness and laughter. He gave much to many, and passed on this week with a sense that life owed him nothing more at all.

Roger was predeceased by his parents; and his brother Jimmy who died as a teenager. He is survived by his loving family: his lovely wife Shirley; sister Marilyn Welch of Yarmouth; son Kevin and his wife Patty (Dwyer) of Hollis and their three sons, Zach, Alex and Nick; and daughter Kelly and her husband Terry Cain of Scarborough and their children, daughter Devin and sons Colin and Conor.

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