J. Michael Welsh, 60, brokerage firm officer and photographer

March 25, 2001|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

J. Michael Welsh, a retired brokerage firm vice president, professional photographer, and founder of Photo Works Traditional and Digital Imaging Center in Hampden, died Wednesday at his Sparks home of cancer. He was 60.

Mr. Welsh retired in 1998 from the Baltimore office of H.C. Wainwright & Co. Inc., a Boston-based stock brokerage, where he had been a vice president since 1996. Earlier, he had worked in a similar capacity at Alex. Brown & Sons Inc. from 1968 until 1996.

An avid photographer who had photographed the U.S. lacrosse team at world championship games in Australia, England and Baltimore, Mr. Welsh and his wife founded Photo Works Traditional and Digital Imaging Center in the former post office on Chestnut Avenue in Hampden in 1999. The digital photography and design center is used by students, amateurs and professional photographers.

"Mike had a lifelong love affair with the art of photography, and it had always been his dream to create a center for photographic technology and art where he could share his love with other photographers and aspiring artists," said Haig Janian, chairman of the department of photography at Towson University and a longtime friend.

"He wanted to create a community where photo artists could gather, teach, learn, work and share their experiences and aesthetic skills with each other. Photo Works is Mike's gift to Baltimore and to the artistic community, and it will continue to benefit from his selfless efforts and enduring vision," said Mr. Janian, a Riderwood resident.

Mr. Welsh's interest in photography began when he was a youth in Homeland, where he was born and raised. As a student at Gilman School, from which he graduated in 1959, he served as editor-in-chief of the school newspaper.

He also photographed high school, college and club sporting events throughout the Baltimore metropolitan area, sending photographs of players to their parents.

"My son Rob played lacrosse in high school and Mike would just show up, take photos and an envelope of pictures would just appear. I didn't even know he was there," said J. Richard "Rick" Uhlig II, a Gilman classmate and Mr. Welsh's friend of 40 years.

"He gave photos to anyone to whom he thought it would bring joy," he said.

Mr. Welsh earned his bachelor's degree from Duke University in 1963 and began his business career as a salesman at McCormick & Co.

A recovering alcoholic who had recently celebrated 14 years of sobriety, Mr. Welsh was interested in the work of the Center for Alcohol and Drug Research and Education, a nonprofit organization based in Towson, and was an active member of Alcoholics Anonymous.

William R. Caltrider Jr., president of CADRE, recalled being invited in 1994 to a meeting of the United Nations Economic and Social Council to discuss the center's mission.

"I mentioned this to Mike in the morning, and when I returned from lunch, he had slipped an envelope under my office door containing a check and a note to `Go and do good work.' That was Mike, generous to a fault and simply the kindest man I've ever known," said the Northeast Baltimore resident.

A man of varied educational, social and religious philanthropic interests, he supported Oldfields School, Villa Julie College and the Thomas More Scholarship Fund.

He was a benefactor of Adoptions Together Inc. in Silver Spring, and in Washington, the Church of the Savior in Adams-Morgan, Good Shepherd Ministries, Jubilee Jobs and Jubilee Housing.

He also supported Martha's Place in Sandtown-Winchester, which provides transitional housing for drug-addicted women, and Ashley, an alcohol and drug rehabilitation facility in Havre de Grace.

Roger A. Raft, a Baltimore stockbroker and longtime friend who lives in Fallston, described him as the "gentlest soul I've ever known. He was gregarious, giving and just a fine human being," he said.

An avid bluegrass fan, he spent Sundays listening to radio station WAMU's "Stained-Glass Bluegrass" show. He also enjoyed traveling and gourmet dining.

His first marriage, to the former Margaret Barnes, ended in divorce.

A memorial service was held yesterday at Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church.

He is survived by his wife of six years, the former Martha Bray; a son, Timothy S. Welsh of Fort Myers, Fla.; two daughters, Kristen Welsh Malarney of Denver and Kathy Spencer Taylor-Welsh of Towson; and a stepdaughter, Jennifer Bray Thompson of Sacramento, Calif.

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