When Timothy Matthew Welty was 15, he bought a junk car and surprised his father. "I go into the garage and he's got the car up on jacks and all the pieces lying around," said his father, Bill. "I say, `What the hell are you doing?' and he says, `Fixing the brakes.' I say, `You don't know how to fix brakes,' and he says, `I took the brakes apart and I remember how it goes. I'll put it back together.' "
It was a turning point in their relationship, said his father, a college professor. He realized that his son "had a kind of intelligence that I don't have."
Tim Welty's true métier was in the physical world. A strong, wiry man who could do push-ups with two fingers, he skied, sky-dived and motorcycled, and he played hockey and volleyball for the Fire Department. He was a firefighter with Squad 288 in Queens.
Firefighter Welty, 34, who lived in Yonkers with his wife, Delia, and two young children, had recently started a construction company. He renovated his mother's house, gutting it and adding skylights, new molding and handmade parquet floors. Now, seeing his handiwork gives his mother, Adele, comfort. "It was not only the skill of his carpentry but his artistic vision that makes the house so special now," she said.
"He was a philosopher, too," said Delia Welty. When couples who they knew would argue, "We'd hear the guy's side but not the girl's and I'd form an opinion," she said. "Tim would always say, `Well, wait, we should hear the other side.' He taught me to see everything from a different angle."
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on June 2, 2002.