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Faces Behind the Numbers: Melinda Welch

Mark and Melinda Welch
Courtesy of Mark Welch
Mark and Melinda Welch

Melinda Welch was a wife, a mom, and an avid volunteer. On October 31, 2020, she died of COVID pneumonia. Her daughter Mandie Herdrick recalls their relationship.

“You know, everybody changes through time, right?” said Mandie. “My parents separated when we were young. So, I’d spend kind of just weekends and a little bit of the summer with her for quite a while. And then we grew closer over the years and certainly closer as I was an adult. And I think kind of what makes all of this so hard is that we really started to get close. She’s an incredibly smart, really driven person, funny, just incredibly caring about other people. She did a lot for the homeless. Her outreach was pretty big.”

Melinda and her husband, Mark Welch, were married for almost 20 years.

“We met through our work,” said Mark.

“What was your first impression of her?” Balisle asked.

“Oh, my goodness. She’s so vivacious and so, so positive and energetic,” said Mark. “She was very, very inspirational and very positive. We liked to do virtually everything. We love to listen to music. We found a common affection for wine. We loved outdoors, fishing in particular. We’d love to motorcycle. She loved convertibles.”

Courtesy of Mark Welch

Through her volunteer work, Melinda worked tirelessly to serve those less fortunate. She gave her time to Big Brothers Big Sisters, Gathering Friends, the Venues church, and many other organizations.

Melinda had also nearly completed her Master Gardener training and fell in love with raising butterflies.

“She would search the leaves of the butterfly life-friendly plants to find the little caterpillars or whatever stage they would be in and they would come into the house. She would bring them into the house. And then we would raise them to adulthood, or butterfly-hood,” said Mark.

Courtesy of Mark Welch

While Melinda spent her entire life in Missouri, Mandie lives in Denver.

“She was actually like two days away from moving with me in Colorado,” said Mandie. “It was pretty tragic. Like, all of their things were in storage in Colorado and they were literally about to leave when she found out she had COVID.”

“We had set that in motion a year ahead of that event and put her house on the market and gone through, oh my goodness, dozens and dozens of showings and all that went with that. We were committed to move to Colorado,” said Mark.

After Melinda’s death, Mark decided to stay in the Ozarks.

Her daughter explains what it was like to lose her mom to COVID-19.

“And I just don’t have this perfect analogy for this, but it’s like to lose somebody in the middle of COVID is, it’s like a family member drowned,” said Mandie. “And then all you heard about all day long on every news station, radio, television, in every conversation, everywhere you went, is about drowning. It’s drowning, drowning, drowning, drowning all day long. And that is what it was like to lose somebody during COVID because it wasn’t just like you lost somebody. You lost somebody and then you had to hear about that every single day, every hour for going on two years.”

No matter the situation, Melinda always found the joy in life. Several years ago, she broke her knee and Mark recalled when she had to get up the stairs into the house.

“She was on crutches. We get to the bottom of the stairs and it’s like, ‘Oh, now what do we do?’ And so, I attempted to lift her up the steps and she said, ‘No, no, no. I’ve got to figure out how to do it myself.’ And that’s just representative of her attitude and the way she approached everything. So, she ended up sitting on her bottom and pushing herself up with the good foot up every step. And we both laughed and laughed and laughed at that. She was going to do it and she’s going to do it herself and she was going to figure out how to do it.”

Daughter Mandie remembers a time with an Uber driver in Chicago when they were trying to make it to dinner and then to see “Hamilton.”

“We had dinner reservations and we’re like, ‘Oh, we’ll just take an Uber down there.’ And it was like an Uber driver from hell. Like, this person – I can’t even describe what they were doing there. Going down wrong streets. They got lost. They have like a map on their phone on the dash and they just could not figure it out. And I was like, ‘No, I think you’re supposed to go left.’ And my mom’s like, ‘It’s okay. It’s fine.’ And I’m like, ‘It is not fine!’ I was getting pissed because, like, our dinner’s gone. We got there and had time to have bread.

“She was just happy that we were together. And then Hamilton was, of course, amazing. So, it was like a perfect night. And we certainly laughed about that later. But I just remember being so angry and her being like, ‘It’s okay.’ And like, it’s not okay. It is okay. Like, we got to see an amazing Broadway show and eat bread.”

Mark misses that positive attitude and Melinda’s laugh.

“I love her. She’s missed so terribly.”

Courtesy of Mark Welch

Jessica Gray Balisle, a Springfield native, grew up listening to KSMU. When she's not wrangling operations and compliance issues, she co-hosts live music show Studio Live and produces arts and culture stories. Jessica plays bass in local band the Hook Knives. She and her husband Todd live with their two cats, Ellie and Jean-Ralphio, and way too many house plants.