Know Your Neighbours – Robert Stanley Kemp Welch O.C., Q.C., LL.D., O.St.J., O.L.J.

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Photo Attribution: John Burtniak, St. Catharines Museum, 2006.77.1832

Robert Stanley Kemp Welch was born in St. Catharines on July 13th, 1928 at the General Hospital to parents Bob and Edna (Babe) Welch. Robert S.K. Welch attended McMaster University in Hamilton where he achieved a B.A. as well as Osgood Hall Law School in Toronto where he received his law degree. In 1953 he was called to the Bar. In that same year he began practicing law in St. Catharines and eventually became senior counsel at Lancaster, Mix & Welch. Also in 1953 he was appointed to the St. Catharines Recreation Commission. In 1963 he began a 22 year political career by becoming the MPP for Lincoln. He maintained himself as a member of Ontario Legislature from 1963-1985, and of the cabinet from 1966-1985. He served as Deputy Premier of Ontario from 1977-1985 and held numerous government portfolios as a Progressive Conservative, which include the following: Culture and Recreation; Education; Attorney General; and Women’s Issues. Welch was elected to the St. Catharines Board of Education in 1954 and served until 1963. He was Chancellor of Brock University from 1985-2000 as well as Chancellor Emeritus of the Anglican Diocese of Niagara from 1965-1992. He was also distinguished by being an Officer of the Order of Canada; Doctor of Laws at Brock as well as McMaster University and a 33rd Degree of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. A highly dedicated citizen of St. Catharines, he was also a Member of the boards of the following companies or groups: Enbridge Consumers Gas; the Leonard B. Herzog Memorial Foundation; The Ontario Great Lakes Renewal Foundation; and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. He was also a member of the Royal Commonwealth society and a founding member of the Russell Avenue Hockey Organization.

Welch was also an ex-officio Bencher of the Law Society of Upper Canada. Welch was a religious man and was a member of the Order of St. John and the Order of St. Lazarus. He was a dedicated patron of the Niagara Children’s’ Chorus and the Partners Association. In his personal life he was married to Rita, with whom he had 3 children: Mary Jayne (Peter Mete); Beth (Brian Kerley) and Rob (Kathie) Welch. He was grandfather to four children: Katherine and William Kerley; Matthew and Emily Mete.

Welch died in his home at the age of 72 in the year 2000 after suffering from cancer. He was predeceased by his wife Rita (1994).

In an article in the St. Catharines Standard entitled: “Welch was ‘a giant'”, then Education Minister Janet Ecker said this of him: “He came from modest roots. He came from a community that instilled in him the value of community service and it was something that he very much put back, not only in his political career but also with his family, with his community and very much as the Chancellor of Brock University.”

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