Jay Douglas Welch, 51, church member, factory parts salesman

August 05, 2002|By Jonathan D. Rockoff | Jonathan D. Rockoff,SUN STAFF

Jay Douglas Welch, a salesman of factory parts who charmed children, friends and fellow churchgoers with his booming laugh and baritone singing, died Wednesday of cancer at his Catonsville home. He was 51.

Known as "Doug" to friends and "Mr. Doug" to children, he was the deacon who oversaw his church's maintenance. He was the volunteer who grilled the hamburgers at one neighborhood group's cookout and greeted participants at another organization's annual golf tournament. When fellow salesmen had questions or customers had problems, Mr. Welch provided the technical advice.

"He just lived by example," said a son, Benjamin Welch of Catonsville. "He didn't tell you what to do a whole lot. He just made it clear. A lot of people would want to do the right thing because of him."

Perhaps it was his tirelessness: He arose at 4:30 a.m. to read the newspaper and beat traffic to work in Baltimore, returning home in the evening to cook, launder and clean, leaving to help out at church and finally getting home only to fall asleep at 10:30 p.m. on his beloved recliner.

Or maybe it was his laugh. Kathy Helme, a friend and fellow churchgoer, said he always took delight at the antics of children who gathered around the altar during Sunday services at Christian Temple in Cockeysville. "You could hear Doug laughing," she said.

Mr. Welch did not have to be so giving and optimistic. He had contracted polio as a child -- a family photograph shows him, feet strapped to a board, in the hospital where he was immobilized for several months. Later in life, he silently struggled with the after-effects of the disease.

He was adventurous: After high school, he worked as a deckhand on a barge on the Mississippi River.

Sherry Welch, his wife, said they decided to marry 25 years ago on the way to the Memphis Zoo in Tennessee. They got a justice of the peace to wed them that day and then honeymooned at the zoo.

Born in Macon, Ga., Mr. Welch was raised in Pine Bluff, Ark. He graduated from high school there in 1968 and attended the University of Arkansas for several years.

He and his wife lived in Memphis for several years before moving to Maryland in 1991. Quickly, Mr. Welch became involved in the community, volunteering at House of Mercy and Civic Works, two civic groups.

He worked at Jobe & Co., a Baltimore firm that sells sensors, controls and other devices used in factories. Jim Fortune, the company president, said Mr. Welch advised customers on what equipment they should buy, then helped them program and wire the devices, and offered trouble-shooting advice if problems arose.

In October, a biopsy showed cancer, and Mr. Welch began treatment at St. Agnes HealthCare in Catonsville.

"All he could talk about," said Rhonda Anderson, a friend who is chief financial officer at St. Agnes, "was how nice everyone was in that physician's office, and he immediately sent flowers to everyone, and that's how he was throughout his whole treatment."

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. today at Christian Temple in Catonsville.

In addition to his wife and son, survivors include another son, Matthew Welch of Ellicott City; a daughter, Kathryn Welch of Catonsville; two sisters, Connie Koonce of Pine Bluff and Becky Livingston of Little Rock, Ark.; and a brother, Mack Welch, also of Little Rock.

The family suggested donations to the Leadership Development Fund of Christian Temple.

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