William Andrew Welch Jr, age 86, of Redgranite passed away peacefully Saturday afternoon, November 14, 2020 at the King Veterans Home.
Bill was born February 11, 1934 and became the son of William Sr. and Luella (Meter) Welch. His aunt Mildred Meter was also a very important part of his life. He grew up in Oshkosh attending Catholic schools and graduated in 1952 from Oshkosh High School. But he spent every summer at the family cottage on Pearl Lake and fell in love with the area.
He attended Oshkosh State College for two years. In 1954 he enlisted in the Army and served his country until 1956, spending a year in England.
Bill always preferred work to school and by high school he had already started a Christmas Tree Farm. He was a third generation entrepreneur – one Grandfather, James Welch, owned a tavern in Oshkosh, while his other Grandfather William Meter owned an electrical company. His father owned a small metal working shop as well as a car dealership, where Bill developed his skill for building and maintaining equipment.
After the service Bill worked as a surveyor in the Rhinelander area and there met the love of his life, Betty Baudhuin. They were married in 1957 and moved to an old farmhouse in the Burr Oak Valley near Redgranite.
Bill worked several jobs until enough Christmas trees were ready to sell so that he could become a full time farmer. Welch Tree Farm became a successful business in which Bill did most of the farm work, built much of his own machinery and Betty handled the finances. It’s a story that could only happen in America – a city kid starts a Christmas Tree Farm at a time when farming Christmas trees was really not yet an occupation.
Bill was very involved in the Christmas Tree Industry as an active member of the State and National Associations. He was a charter member in 1954 and later served as the President of the Wisconsin Christmas Tree Growers Association in 1969. He was awarded the Distinguished Christmas Tree Grower Award in 2002.
Bill was a long time member of St. Mark’s Parish, the Redgranite Lions Club, the Knights of Columbus, AMVETS, the Redgranite Snowmobile Club, and for 20 years was a member of the Redgranite Civic Center Board. He also served as a volunteer firefighter for the Redgranite Area Fire Department for 13 years. He spent many years sharing “three o’clock coffee” with the guys and solving the world’s problems. After retiring, he was an avid golfer and went on regular motorcycle rides with the “gang”.
Bill enjoyed a good laugh, reading history and current events, going out to eat, and spending time cutting wood on the farm.
Bill is survived by his wife of 63 years, Betty; his sons Robert (Jeanne) and Brian, both of Redgranite; his three grandchildren, Adam (Hannah Renfro) Welch, Sarah (Matthew Jonas) Hackett, and Peter (Brianna Stapleton) Welch, all of the Madison area; and 6 great grandchildren Makeda, Sam, Zeke, Aliana, Lydia, and Elwood.
The family has decided to delay any services until a later date.
The Ruminski Funeral Home of Redgranite is assisting the Welch Family with arrangements.