Thomas “Tom” Welch | 1948-2021


It is with profound sadness the family of Thomas M. Welch announces his passing on Friday, January 29, 2021. He fought a brave battle against lung cancer for more than two years. In the end, he died peacefully in the early morning hours with his beloved wife holding his hand.

Tom was born in Spokane, Washington on August 23, 1948 to John T. and Dorothy E. (Swanson) Welch. He was the oldest son of 10 children. Tom spent his early years in Western Washington and his teen years on Shaw Island in Washington State. He took the mailboat to Orcas Island to attend high school there, graduating in 1966. He joined the US Army, serving in Europe and Vietnam, where he was wounded and received the Purple Heart. After his Army service, he attended Rutgers University, majoring in political science.

He met the love of his life, Jennifer (Gelnaw) McLeod in 1977 and they were married in 1979. They were blessed to never falter in their love for each other. In loving and supporting one another, they learned there was nothing they wanted that couldn’t be achieved together. They worked together from the beginning, first for others, before eventually starting their own successful businesses in Texas and again in Washington State when they settled in Olga on his beloved Orcas Island 19 years ago.

Tom was a lover of paleontology, geology, and human history. Collecting books and historical artifacts that interested him was a passion. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of the world that he was always happy to share. He also had a quick and clever wit that never failed to make Jenny and others laugh. That knowledge and wit made him an engaging writer and he loved putting pen to paper to write a story. How we will miss his beautiful mind!

After moving to Orcas, Tom served on the boards of the Olga Water Users Association, Orcas Island Historical Museum, the Community Foundation, and the Friends of the Library until health issues saw him stepping back. For several years he wrote the History Corner articles on the museum’s behalf in the local paper. He also authored the historical ‘Images of Orcas Island’ book whose proceeds benefit the museum to this day.

Tom was a good man and a kind soul who had an abiding love for his children, grandchildren and family. His presence will be missed by his wife of 41 years, Jenny; their daughter Erin (Deana) Grato and son Ian (Asifa) Welch; his five grandchildren, Kendon Pasin, Scorpio Hendricks, Neila Welch, Oliver and Avery Grato. He leaves behind eight of his siblings who will miss their brother dearly.

May his memory be a blessing to all he knew, as it is to our family.

A memorial gathering is planned for early this summer when his ashes will be interred in Olga Cemetery. The family is forever grateful for the help and support of the Hospice of the Northwest who helped make it possible for Tom to remain at home in the care of the family who loved him.

We request that anyone wishing to donate in his memory do so to Hospice of the Northwest, the Orcas Island Historical Museum, Orcas Island Community Foundation, the Friends of the Library, or a charity of their choice.