It is with great sadness that we share the passing on July 19, 2021, of John Walter Welch, born June 18, 1947, beloved son of John Woodrow Welch and Jane McCaigue Welch. John was a longtime resident of Spokane Washington, having returned recently to Wisconsin where he was raised.
John was a 1965 graduate of Francis Jordon High School, attended Marquette University, before entering the U.S. Marine Corps.
As the only son, with six sisters, John quickly set out to the far reaches of the country. To make sure he never had the opportunity to miss his siblings, one sister made him a patch work quilt of fabric from his sisters’ childhood clothes found in the attic of the family home. While he grumbled at the sentimentality, John hauled that quilt with him for his entire adult life.
Following in the footsteps of his father, grandfather, great grandfather, and many uncles, John chose life on the railroad, as a locomotive engineer, for his profession. That railroad career took him from the Milwaukee Road where he laid rails and tended the freight yards as a young college student, to Amtrak in western Illinois and southern California to the Burlington Northern in Washington, and 15 years with the Alaska Railroad in Fairbanks. During that stint, John managed to work a gold claim with friends in Alaska, and even found enough gold to embellish a ring with tiny gold nuggets. The ring was abruptly lost in a lake in Wisconsin during a family reunion.
John was a locomotive engineer by trade but an intellectual by design. Like his father, he was never without a book and, late in his career, John received his degree from Washington State University. He studied many of his favorite topics, including history, philosophy, and anthropology. John also donated his time in support of Spokane’s Second Harvest Food Bank.
In retirement, and missing his perch high atop a locomotive, John sought out a new adventure, guiding freight locomotives across the vast deserts of Saudi Arabia. He delighted in sending pictures of camels running alongside his engine to one of his sisters, an elementary teacher, to share with her young students. He often compared the “goofy” camels traversing the Saudi desert rails to the moose crisscrossing the icy rails of Alaska.
John is survived by his sisters, Patricia Levitt of Newburyport MA, Jane A. Welch of Wauwatosa WI, Mary Welch-Donovan of Greenfield WI, Kathleen Salmon (Kelly) of Milwaukee WI, and brother-in-law, Gary Dudovick of Wauwatosa WI. He is also survived by his treasured nieces and nephews, Cornelius T. Geary, Kyle Salmon, Meagan and Joseph Levitt, Catherine (Kitty) and Elizabeth Dudovick, Erin Donovan, Marjorie Reagan, and Andrew, Adrianna, and Nickolas Ross. John leaves many cousins, near and far, especially his dear cousins Lona Jupiter of San Francisco CA and Robert Welch of Manitowoc WI. John was preceded in death by his parents and sisters Ellen J. Welch and Susan J. Ross and brothers-in-law, Patrick Donovan and Joseph Ross. John, as well, leaves many close friends in Washington, Alaska and Wisconsin. John’s family wishes to especially thank his Spokane friends for their care and camaraderie.
His family will remember John as a loving son, brother, uncle, a supportive caretaker of family members, an avid reader, traveler, and the steward of a vast repository of interesting and entertaining knowledge.
Visitation at 10:00 AM and Mass at 11:00 AM at Christ King Parish at 2604 N. Swan Blvd., Wauwatosa on Wednesday, July 28, 2021. Burial immediately following the Mass at Holy Cross Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to Hunger Task Force of Milwaukee or the Second Harvest Food Bank in Spokane WA.
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