Moving Forward

Ginny Welch describes her experience of Mayor Damon Welch’s funeral

Prayers and support from community helped her cope

(January 2020)
Read previous Don Ward columns!

Don Ward

(January 2020) – For most people, getting through the death of a loved one is hard enough, but consider when that person is a public person – such as was the case when Madison, Ind., Mayor Damon Welch died suddenly on Sept. 25 from pulmonary embolism, or blood clot.  The news shocked the community of 13,000 as well as hundreds more who knew the 66-year-old Welch or worked with him the previous eight years at Madison City Hall.
His wife of 46 years, Ginny Welch, was suddenly thrust into the limelight to carry the burden of sharing the grief and shock with community residents.
“It was more than just losing a spouse because as a public figure he belonged to the entire community, so we shared the loss with the community since he was the sitting mayor,” said Welch, 64, a retired teachers’ aide. Nearly three months after the funeral and burial, Ginny Welch still tries to get through each day “one step at a time.” She grieves and reaches out to her friends and family on Facebook with posts that help console her. “It’s a good way for me to connect with people and hear back from them.”
As time passes, she says many memories keep coming back about their days together. “It’s the little things you don’t always think about.”

Photo provided

Damon and Ginny Welch are pictured in this fun photo taken in May 2018.

The news of Damon Welch’s sudden death was broadcast on Louisville and Indianapolis TV and radio stations, and printed in metro newspapers there as well as throughout smaller communities around Madison. It was even on Facebook before many of the immediate family members had been notified.
There was the immediate formality of swearing in Madison City Council President Dan Dattilo as the mayor pro-tem until the Republicans caucused and selected Bob Courtney to finish Welch’s term. Courtney then earned the position outright when he won the November election nearly two months later. After two terms as mayor, Welch had chosen not to seek a third term.
Then there was the limo ride her family took from her house to Madison City Hall on the morning of Saturday, Sept. 28 – on Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art no less – to meet up with the hearse for a private, one-hour visitation for city workers and elected officials. The funeral on Sunday, led by pastor Bob Hicks, took place at 3 p.m. at North Madison Christian Church, where Damon had served as deacon, elder, worship leader and volunteer.
Following the ceremony, the hearse and vehicle procession traveled from the church to the Indiana Veterans Memorial Cemetery via downtown Madison – down Main Street and then up the Hanover Hill. The side streets had been blocked off by city-owned vehicles and employees. The crowd waved flags or stood in silent respect.
“I loved that they showed so much love for Damon, and it means a lot to me,” Ginny reflected, wiping away tears.
When they entered the cemetery, they passed under a huge American flag held in the air by twin cranes on either side of the road. The burial ceremony included a 21-gun salute to the former U.S. Air Force captain, with the casket positioned on a patch of pavement in the middle of the cemetery where Welch himself had taken part in many such veterans’ memorial services as mayor.
“It was amazing, and there was a beautiful sunset,” Ginny recalled. “But I know that Damon wouldn’t have wanted all that attention. He never sought publicity. But since he was a public figure, the community wanted to show its support, and they did. People were pretty respectful. We were in such pain, but we were also very blessed.”
Ginny credits the Lord and the many prayers of others for getting her through that very difficult weekend. She said her family got through it with the help of NMCC’s Hicks, NMCC associate pastor Robby King, Mayor Welch’s Executive Assistant Tammy Acosta, Rodney Nay of Morgan & Nay, and Trevor Lytle and Brye Welty of Lytle Welty Funeral Home. “I was a mess and couldn’t make any decisions, so they did it all for us.” Ginny and her children, however, planned the service at the church, she said.
She said she was amazed at how much people from the community did for them – bringing them food, ice, coolers, drinks and extra towels to help with all the children at the house. Some did their laundry and even provided stamps for them to mail their thank you cards. Others provided day care for the grandchildren during the visitations and funeral service.

Photo Provided

Ginny Welch (far right) poses beside a memorial erected in November at Anderson Elementary School in Madison, Ind., in honor of her late husband, Madison Mayor Damon Welch. Posing with her from left are her daughter, Gaeli Batts, granddaughters Emma and Rebecca Batts and newborn grandson Damon Matthew Batts.

“People were so thoughtful – really amazing,” she said. “Also, though my kids were hurting as I was, they were there for me in so many ways – doing so many of the daily planning, receiving food, keeping a list of people to thank, making me eat.”
Now when she goes out in town, she must still deal with the loss. “Sometimes it’s awkward because people are afraid to talk to you because they are afraid they’re going to make you cry. Well, if I cry it’s OK. But they’re not sure how to handle it.”
A message that Ginny posted on Facebook a few weeks back addressed this subject quite well: “If you know someone who has lost a very important person, and you’re afraid to mention them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that they died – you’re not reminding them. They didn’t forget they died. What you’re reminding them of is that you remembered that they lived, and that is a great gift.”
Ginny says that sharing such messages have helped her cope during those days when she is feeling alone.
She also has received support from the community and her church family. Acosta said Ginny held up well amid the adversity. “Ginny was definitely a pillar of strength. It was very hard for everybody, and Ginny is someone we look to for strength and encouragement. I told her that when you are dealt with a hardship like this, you can either grow or whither. And the grass is always greener with Ginny because she’s chosen to move forward and grow from it.”
As his final days in the mayor’s office approached, Damon and Ginny Welch had been eagerly looking forward to retirement together. They had plans to do some travel and visit their three children and grandchildren – some of whom live in California. A ninth grandchild was born in October, and their parents – Gaeli and Andy Batts – named him Damon Matthew.
“We didn’t have any grand travel plans,” she said. “We were just looking forward to living day by day without having to set the alarm clock.”
They’ve been living day by day together since they were teenagers. She was only 14 when she first started dating her future husband, who at the time was only 16. “I was a freshman in high school, and he was a junior.” She was a month shy of her 18th birthday when they married in August 1973.
In the past three months, Ginny has had time to reflect on many memories from a life with her high school sweetheart. But one in particular was this past August when he presented her with a bouquet of flowers for her birthday. He had signed the card, “For my wife of 46 years.”
Ginny said, “At the time I thought it was sort of strange. Why hadn’t he signed it simply Happy Anniversary? And to think he would be gone less than two months later. Now I really cherish it.”

• Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner of RoundAbout. Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email him at: info@RoundAbout.bz.

Back to January 2020 Articles


Copyright 1999-2020, Kentuckiana Publishing, Inc.

Pick-Up Locations Subscribe Staff Advertise Contact Submit A Story Our Advertisers Columnists Archive Area Links Area Events Search our Site Home Monthly Articles Calendar of Events Ketnucky Speedway Madison Chautauqua Madison Ribberfest Madison Regatta