When I look at the attached photo of Matt Welch – his Oliver Ames High School senior yearbook photo – I see a character, a devilish wiseacre, someone a bit slick, someone with attitude, someone a bit roguish, someone who could handle himself.
Yeah, Matt Welch – a teenager of Easton of the 1950s – was all of that and more.
I always, in a way, admired guys like Matt Welch – the tough, square jawed, confident, good looking dudes who drove big and shiny cars and had money and always seemed to have a pretty gal on their arms. That was Matt in high school and as a young man.
Matt Welch, who served his country honorably in the Marine Corps, was an outsized personality. Starting in his early 20s, he worked hard, he stayed focused, and built an immensely successful electrical contracting business. He invested in real estate.
He became wealthy.
He stayed friends with his high school buddies and he was a lifelong resident of Easton.
Matt Welch died on March 15.
He was only 74 years old.
For about the past 10 years, he had been battling diabetes and other health issues.
Matt is survived by two children. His son, Chris, who was in my class at OA; we graduated in 1981. Matt’s daughter, Sonja, is also an OA grad; she is OA ’90.
Matt was one of six kids. He leaves three brothers – Richard, David, and Kevin – and a sister, Patricia Russell. Matt was predeceased by his brother, Francis.
If you have lived in Easton for a while you know the Welch family. Matt’s brother, David, and David’s sons, David and Dennis, are established in construction in the area.
I wrote a story about nine years ago for a local newspaper; the topic of the story was the toughest guys in Easton. As I prefaced in the story, if you go anywhere in America, to any city or town, any hamlet, and visit a place where the locals hang, and you ask, “Who is the toughest guy in this …. ?” you will get yourself a spirited discussion.
In my story on Easton tough guys, I included Matt. He deserved to be on the list. From what I hear, his brother, David, deserves to be on the list too. I guess it wouldn’t have been smart to mess with the Welch boys.
Matt played football for my dad when he coached the OA football team. Matt played on an undefeated and untied OA squad. This was during a stretch of three consecutive seasons in which OA did not lose a football game.
Perhaps I have something of a cosmic connection, just maybe, with Matt in that when Matt was a student at OA, and his mother was gravely ill with cancer, she asked of my father to make sure that Matt graduated from high school.
Matt's mother understood in her son the rambunctious nature that could get him sidelined from academics.
I know my dad cared about his students and athletes, and I know he would have considered it a solemn obligation to honor the type of request that Matt Welch's mother made of him – yet in that Matt did graduate from OA, I can only be confident that Matt gets the credit for him earning his his diploma.
But, yes, I am thinking that my dad was probably urging him along.
After graduating from OA, Matt enlisted in the Marine Corps. After the Marine Corps, he pursued a spirited existence.
I repeat, Matt was outsized in life. For example, he enjoyed his guns, owning and shooting them – all sorts of guns: big guns, small guns, automatic, semi-automatic … you name it.
Back in the 1970s, Matt Welch drove a Mercedes Benz jeep. I remember that ride; it was about as bling and classy as I had seen at the point.
Matt Welch was opinionated, could be loud, abrasive – and, quite frankly, was capable of a mean streak. He butted heads with people, including town officials, over zoning and building issues. He had big time and fairly public squabbles with people, including those who were decent and gave a lot to the community.
I didn’t know Matt well – but I got along with him. I knew him to be smart and reflective. I liked him.
When I was involved in politics, Matt supported me.
I remember Matt as a giver.
Back in January of 1991, when the sons and daughters of America were at war in the Middle East, in the terrible business of removing the Iraqi military from Kuwait, caring and concerned people in our community – it seems we have an abundance of them here – got together and resolved to hold a tribute rally for our troops.
It was decided that as part of that honor and tribute to our Armed Forces, that along Main and Center Street, 44 flags would be affixed to telephone poles – one flag for each of the 44 service people from Easton who were involved in the operation, code named “Desert Storm,” to liberate Kuwait.
Matt Welch came forward and donated his company equipment and himself and members of his crew to put up the flags.
And the Welch team put up all 44 of them.
But wouldn’t you know it, the night prior to the big tribute, which would be held at the Rockery, there was one heck of a wind storm, and many of the flags were dislodged and fell to the ground.
Matt Welch and Co. to the rescue. The morning of the event, he and his squad were back on the streets of Easton putting the flags back up. Not only that, but for each of the 44 flags, Team Welch reinforced the flag holders with a sturdy sleeve.
More than 20 years later, you can still see many of those sleeves fastened to the telephone poles along Main Street and Center Street.
And here’s a story – a story that many might not think jibes with the tough and hard-nosed image of Matt Welch.
I said that Matt stayed friends with his high school pals. One of those guys is Rick Martin. Rick and his wife, Annie, and Matt were close friends.
Many years ago, Matt was over at the Martin’s home off of Sheridan Street, and Annie and Rick’s daughter, Lizzy, only three years old, was holding on to a string which was attached to a red colored helium balloon. Alas, the string and the balloon got away from Lizzy.
The balloon wafted away, and it got caught in the branches of a tree. Lizzy was crying, heartbroken.
Matt Welch, the tough guy, couldn’t let this stand. He got in his car – or it may have been that Mercedes jeep – and he drove to his business headquarters on Washington Street/Rte. 138, which was on the east side of the street, and about a quarter mile south of the intersection of Rte. 138 and Depot Street/Rte. 123.
Matt jumped into his bucket truck (for the uninitiated, bucket trucks are those trucks you see on the roads, which have long arms extended high in the air at the end of which is a bucket in which stands a telephone repairman) and drove it back to the Martin residence.
When Matt arrived at the Martins, he got into the bucket and Rick Martin operated the lift, and Matt was raised up to the branches of the tree where Lizzy’s red balloon was ensnared.
Matt retrieved the balloon. The lift and the bucket and Matt were lowered. And Matt returned the red balloon to a very happy little girl.
As I said, I liked Matt Welch.
In his later years, he was up against it, battling illness and deprived of the energy and strength and robustness that were once his signature. It must have been very, very difficult.
I hope now, I trust now, Matt, that you are at peace.