September 14, 1940-July 20, 2019
Kathleen Welsh passed peacefully in her sleep early Saturday morning, July 20th, 2019 following a protracted illness. Kathleen, 78 years of age, reminded her family often that her “real” name should be remembered as Kathleen Mary Irene Susan O’Brien Michels Welsh; and wanted to remember each element as a much-loved story in her life. Kathleen faced her last two years with the same love for all, dignity, determination and the same great humor for which she will remain famous.
Kathleen was the glue that held her beloved extended and disparate family together. A serial party-planner and hub of all her family and friends; Kathleen was an outspoken, sassy and loving lady with no shortage of words to share… She was the family raconteur, historian and truly a vibrant and unforgettable character. Kathleen packed about ten lives’ worth of love, friendship and experiences into just 78 years.
Kathleen’s first 20+ years at home in a multi-generational setting included speaking 100% Flemish in the home each day until her father Paul O’Brien returned home from work. As such, Kathleen was one of the last remaining fluent Flemish speakers in Mishawaka. Being half Irish and half Belgian, Kathleen maintained pride and strong interest in her heritage and traveled to Ireland and to Belgium and western Europe for five decades. Kathleen first visited Belgium in 1965 and forged life-long friendships with family and friends all over Belgium, principally her doppelganger, cousin and late-night sidekick Marie Madeleine Vergotte Balman (aka The Queen of the Moonlight).
Kathleen had a long and successful career in Media and Advertising. She wrote for Michiana Magazine in the ‘70s under the pen name Peg Sheridan in the travel, lifestyle and entertainment categories. She worked for WNDU in the early ‘70s doing live ad spots, voice-overs and occasionally appearing in the live weather telecasts. After other related industry roles, Kathleen and husband Tom Welsh enjoyed success forming a commercial advertising agency in Mishawaka thriving more than 25 years with Kathleen taking charge as Media Buyer, Copy Editor and Event Planner.
A lifelong sports fan, Kathleen would often point out her father played semi-pro baseball in the famous Pennsylvania League in the first half of the 20th century, before moving to Mishawaka. A season ticket holder in Notre Dame football, men’s and women’s basketball, she was never far away from a schedule or game program. A true Chicago Cubs and Bears team fan, she once stood in the blazing sun through a standing room-only Cubs double-header at Wrigley Field. Kathleen was a big fan of the University of Notre Dame, the Grotto and Father Hesburgh. Kathleen’s stepfather Dean Bolerjack was a ’61 graduate who matriculated in the mid-1930s and saw the emergence of the ND football legends in-person.
In 1974, Kathleen “urged” Tom to take a ride to Michigan for a basket of peaches for her new fruit canning hobby. After a what began as an innocent and leisurely ride through Sisters Lakes and Indian Lake, they came home with a lake house mortgage. That lake home became the focal point of decades of memories, lifelong friends and the hub of many hundreds of stories, legends and memories. Kathleen was a founding member of the Wall Street Wonders stock club in the early 1980s that continued-on for 20+ years as a force of nature in stock-picking, value growth and lifelong friendships. Each year, they would cash-out a bit of stock and fund a trip to Wall Street for a couple days. ‘What happened at Wall St., stayed at Wall St.,” she would say… She and her sister Mary Margaret took flying lessons the same day about 1970 at the SB airport and always claimed the instructor pilot likely is still in intensive therapy over the experience.
Kathleen touched and influenced so many lives the family states she is on the express train to heaven. The family also gives the following bit of encouragement to St. Peter… “You better have your sandals tied-tight trying to keep the new “Rowdiest Angel” in line. Good luck!”
Kathleen is survived by a son, Brien Welsh. Nieces (Daughters of her beloved Irish twin Patrick O’Brien) Christine O’Brien Tippens (Will) and their sons, Patrick and Clark; Anne O’Brien Scopellite (Anthony) and their daughters, Kalli, Kelsea and Ciara; Cathy O’Brien Seros (Thomas) and their children Tommy and Alyssa; Nancy O’Brien Pearce (John) and their children Patrick, Hannah and Bridget. Beloved Stepchildren Tom Welsh and Peggy Swihart (fmr Kevin) and their children Jason, Jeremy, Jennifer and Jackie. Stepbrother and Stepsisters Dan Bolerjack (Mary), Linda Spicer (John) and Paula Gruber (Charles). Sister-in-law Janice Morrical and her children David, Julie and Brett. Sister-in-law Donna Welsh and her children, Debbie Smith (Rodger) and son Matthew; and Colleen Edwards (James). Sister-in-law Mary Jo Michels Raney (Rob) and her children Christopher and Sarah. Cousin Cindy VanDeWalle Kertes (Joe) and her children Mark (Leslie) and Jennifer (Robert). Cousin Elaine Wisner and her children Kristin, Leanne and Mandy.
Fun-loving and dear cousins residing in Belgium: Marie Madeleine Vergotte Balman (Marc), and son John Balman (Kristien); Maurice Vergotte (Anny), and their children Michel, Pascale and Caroline; Etienne Vergotte (Anna); and Lorraine Vergotte Vertrieste (Roland).
Kathleen was preceded in death by Mother Julianna VanDeWalle O’Brien Bolerjack; Father Paul O’Brien and Stepfather Dean Bolerjack. Grandparents August and Zulma VanDeWalle. Husbands David J. Michels and Thomas F. Welsh. Brothers Patrick O’Brien and James O’Brien. Sister Mary Margaret O’Brien Crimaldi. Mother and Father-in-Law Genevieve and J Michels. Brothers-in-law Timothy Michels, Gary Crimaldi, Jack Morrical and James Welsh. Uncle Marc VanDeWalle. Nephews James Welsh, Michael Navarre, and niece Jean Morrical. Cousin-in-law Robert Wisner.
On Friday, July 26th, there will be a visitation at Hahn Funeral Home in Mishawaka, IN from 11:00 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. Following this; at 2:00 p.m. at St. Bavo church, also in Mishawaka, there will be a funeral mass with cemetery services immediately-after.
Donations can be made in honor of Kathleen to The Center for Hospice Care and the Christ Child Society of South Bend.
To leave the family an online condolence, please visit www.hahnfuneralhomes.com.