PORTLAND – The Lester A. York Jr. Catholic Man of the Year Award was presented to Gordon A. Welch recently at the Feast of Christ the King father-son Communion breakfast. His Eminence William H. Cardinal Keeler, Archbishop, Baltimore, Md., was present at the event sponsored by the Greater Portland Council of Catholic Men at the Italian Heritage Center.

Welch was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, in 1917. Shortly after his birth, both parents died when a munitions ship blew up in Halifax Harbor, killing hundreds of people.

His care was entrusted to an aunt whom he always called his mother. It was shortly after the tragedy that he and his aunt moved to the area referred to as Libby Town in Portland where they belonged to St. Patrick’s Church and where he attended St. Patrick’s School.

As a young boy, his industrious nature and proximity to the trains at Union Station found him selling newspapers to the train crews and riders that traveled New England.

Welch graduated from Cheverus High School in the class of 1935 when the school was on Free Street. He is the last living member of that class. After graduation, he entered St. Michael’s Seminary in Vermont, only to return at the end his first year due to ill health.

At the outbreak of World War II, Welch decided to enlist in the service, which meant giving up his Canadian citizenship – a difficult decision to make with a sister and several brothers still in Halifax. It was during his time in the service that he met his wife-to-be, a member of the Air Corps to whom he was married in 1944.

His life revolved around the church, the Knights of Columbus and the Holy Name Society. He was an usher, collector and was a teacher of CCD.

His wife, Emma, died 1989 and shortly after that he found his new calling – ministering to the sick and dying as a special minister of the Eucharist at Mercy Hospital. From 1991 to 2004 when he retired, he had accumulated more than 1,360 hours of volunteer work.

He moved and relocated in St. John’s Parish in South Portland. For many years he has been a member of the choir, a volunteer with the Food Pantry and an active social justice advocate for parishioners in need of assistance.

He has four children, Karen, Ronald, John and Judy.

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