William B. Welsh, 91, active in Overlea

November 22, 1998|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

William Bernard Welsh was a man of many interests.

He was a carpenter who helped build hotels and office buildings for decades. He was a farmer whose backyard garden in Overlea overflowed with tomatoes and green beans each summer. And he played a jazzy clarinet and saxophone, meeting his wife while doing a gig.

But Mr. Welsh, who died Tuesday of cancer at 91, was mainly known as a pillar of the eastern Baltimore County community of Overlea for 70 years.

"He was the kind of person that had a lot of energy and seemed to make people feel at ease when he was around," said Catherine Harris, a former Overlea neighbor. "He was always doing something interesting."

Mr. Welsh died in Tampa, Fla., where he had lived since 1992.

For most of his life, Mr. Welsh lived in a large Victorian-style house on Velmar Avenue. The house had a manicured lawn, an abundant vegetable garden and a golf putting green.

The putting green was a must. Mr. Welsh was a sports enthusiast who was especially fond of golf and Orioles baseball.

"It was a putting green with a 5-pound coffee can in the center," said his daughter Mary Elizabeth Wildberger of Fairfield, Calif. "He used it a lot."

Mr. Welsh was known throughout his neighborhood as somewhat of an eccentric. His large garden yielded bushels of vegetables yearly that he would give to friends and neighbors. The neighbors also received his advice on their crops.

"He'd walk up and down the alley and pass judgment on their gardens," Mrs. Wildberger said.

Michael Landlaw, a former neighbor, said: "He enjoyed taking some of the credit for everyone's garden. He was like a proud papa when he saw what he had done."

A Baltimore native, Mr. Welsh graduated from the Polytechnic Institute in 1925 and was a carpenter with several construction companies. For many years, his work took him up and down the East Coast helping construct numerous buildings.

From 1956 until the early 1970s, he worked in maintenance for the Baltimore school system. From 1972 to 1975, he taught building skills to Vietnam veterans in Baltimore as part of a federal program aimed at decreasing their unemployment rate.

"He found that very fulfilling," said another daughter, Carolyn Bodo of Tampa. "He developed his own curriculum. He taught them all the building skills he knew."

For more than 70 years, he was a parishioner of St. Michael's Roman Catholic Church in Overlea, where he was active in the Holy Name Society and the St. Vincent de Paul Society and sang in the choir.

A prayer service was held yesterday.

Decades ago, his family bought 12 plots at a West Baltimore cemetery, where 10 of his relatives are buried. But Mr. Welsh didn't like the idea of traveling from Overlea to West Baltimore, so he bought plots for himself and his wife at a cemetery about five minutes from his home.

Mr. Welsh gave the West Baltimore plots to two homeless people whom he did not know.

"So in the West Baltimore cemetery we have plots for 12 people -- 10 family members and two people we don't know," Mrs. Wildberger said.

Mr. Welsh married Ethel Tennant in 1929; she died in 1992.

In addition to his daughters, he is survived by nine grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

Pub Date: 11/22/98

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