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In Memoriam: John Stanley Welch (1920 – 2021)

February 15, 2021

What a man. What a life. What a Latter-day Saint.

John Stanley Welch was born in Jerome, Idaho on August 9, 1920. He died in Provo, Utah on February 13, 2021. In his 100+ years of life, he celebrated his 75th wedding anniversary with his eternal companion, Unita Woodland Welch (1922-2018), saw his posterity grow to over 100, and was buried with a current temple recommend in his pocket.

Along the way, he grew up in Boise and Cache Valley where he worked as a field hand cultivating sugar beets. A long, curved sugar beet knife occupied a prominent place in his office the rest of his life. It reminded him of his roots and his decision to make something of himself. He graduated from Utah State University as valedictorian at age 20, then joined the army. He was at Fort Stevens near Astoria, Oregon when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Eventually he was attached to anti-aircraft artillery units in the European theater. After the war, he earned his law degree from Harvard and joined Latham and Watkins in Los Angeles as their 8th attorney. For 42 years, he helped that firm grow into a global powerhouse.

John S. Welch with his beet knife.

John S. Welch with his beet knife.

John and Unita raised their 5 children in La Cañada Flintridge, California where the Church, gardens and fruit trees were important parts of life. He took his children hiking in the Sierra Nevada, summitting 14,505-foot Mount Whitney 5 times. Helicopter skiing in the Canadian Rockies was a passion. At his 100th birthday celebration in 2020, a certificate was on display honoring him for helicopter skiing 4.3 million vertical feet. As a golfer, he scored 4 holes in one. In retirement, he and his wife served a mission at BYU-Hawaii. They lived for many years in downtown Salt Lake City.

The four living John Welch's skiing at Alta in 2018.

The four living John Welch's skiing at Alta in 2018.

A savvy investor, John and his wife endowed 3 scholarship funds at Utah State. One of the Welch scholarship recipients was current Utah Governor, Spencer Cox. In 2018, Utah State University awarded him an honorary doctorate for his decades of support to their students. Welch also supported BYU, FARMS, the BYU New Testament Commentary project, and Book of Mormon Central. The Chiasmus Jubilee on August 16, 2017, co-sponsored by BYU Studies and Book of Mormon Central, was a highlight for him. Daughter, Barbara Cramer, was the vocalist. Son, James was the organist. Oldest son, John W. (Jack) was the honoree.

Welch’s legacy lives on. He was the 4th John Welch in his family. John Woodland Welch, who co-founded and chairs Book of Mormon Central, is the 5th. John Sutton Welch is the 6th, and John Frandsen Welch is the 7th in this illustrious line. Book of Mormon Central would not be what it is today without the support, both emotional and financial, of John S. Welch and his family. This article in the Deseret News was a fitting tribute to a great man:

Welch was buried in a small, private service at Larkin Sunset Lawn Cemetery in Salt Lake City. A more public celebration of life is contemplated at a later date. 

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