Leila E. Welch (1931 - 2012)

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Leila E. Welch, 81, of Havre, and later Bozeman, passed away peacefully on August 16, 2012, surrounded by her loving family. She was born on February, 28, 1931, to Riley C. Peters and Eliza Manchester Tompkins Peters in Port Townsend, Wash.. She was known as "Babe" to her family but "Lee" to her friends. Her family lived in Seattle when she was a young child in an apartment over her father's dry cleaning shop before relocating the business to Port Townsend to serve the military at Fort Worden.

After graduating from high school, she attended Business College in Seattle. She later accepted a secretarial position with the Civil Service at White Sands Missile Base in New Mexico. A few miles across the state line was a chance to socialize at dances at Fort Bliss Army Base in Santa Fe. There she met a handsome soldier, Bill Welch, who in time convinced her to move to his home state of Montana and become his wife.

They married at St. Jude's Catholic Church on January 2, 1960. Lee transferred to a secretarial position at Malmstrom Air force Base in Great Falls and they began their family with the first of three daughters, Melody Lea, born in October 1960.

In 1962, the family moved to Havre for Bill to work on the Great Northern Railroad later known as the Burlington Northern, and for Lee to work as a secretary in an insurance office. She became involved in Business Professionals Women's Club.

In May of 1964, they welcomed their second daughter, Karla Marie, and in August of 1965, their third, Arlyce Pauline. In 1964 they started a seasonal shingling business which eventually became Hi-Line Roofing which roofed many of the largest municipal and commercial buildings across much of the Hi-Line. Lee was the woman behind the man. Working alongside Bill, Lee put her years of secretarial experience to work in building the business.

Though her hands were full with running an office and a household, she tirelessly cared for the needs of her husband and daughters. She and Bill worked hard and sacrificed much to provide for their family in necessities, education, and in granting many little desires of the heart.

In the midst of these busy years of raising a family, Lee's physical strength began to fail and in 1971 she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Yet the strength of her spirit did not fail. She demonstrated courage, faith in God, and determined endurance as she pursued various courses of treatment, dietary measures, and physical therapy to maintain her abilities. Though a wheelchair became her mode of travel, she never became a helpless invalid, but persistently did everything she could to care for her family and herself. She is an example to all who have known her.

Lee enjoyed church activities, classic films and the latest crime shows, dinner out on the town, and doing her own shopping.

In recent years, in addition to Bill, her faithful husband of 50 years, she was cared for by a team of care staff in her home, who also became dear to her heart. She spent her final years in Bozeman enjoying time with family and making new friends, including those on her care team.

Though she cherished the life God gave her, her family, and friends, she prepared her heart to finally step into the embrace of Jesus who she described as her best friend.

Lee was preceded in death by her parents, siblings, George Tompkins, Ruth Ann Tompkins Seastone, Riley Crews Peters, and her loving husband, William F. Welch.

She is survived by her daughters, Melody (Phil) Hoover of Bozeman, Karla Welch and Arlyce Crawte both of Bainbridge Island, Wash.; 10 grandchildren, Jared and Joshua Fisher, Ryan Reithmeier, Sarah, John Taylor, Rachel, Christian and Michael Hoover, Chae and Skylar Crawte; two great-grandchildren, Noah Johnston Fisher and Jacob Fisher; in addition to cousins, nieces, nephews, and numerous dear friends.

A memorial celebration of Lee's life will be held at 2 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2012 at the Christian Center, 921 W. Mendenhall, Bozeman with visitation held one hour prior to the service at the church. A Funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012 at St. Jude's Catholic Church in Havre with burial at Highland Cemetery with reception to follow at the Parish Center. Visitation in Havre will be held on Wednesday evening from 5-7 p.m. at Holland & Bonine Funeral Home.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to St. Joseph's Indian School, P.O. Box 100, Chamberlain, SD 57325.

Arrangements are in care of Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service. www.dokkennelson.com.

Funeral Home
Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service
113 South Willson Avenue
Bozeman, MT 59715
(406) 587-3184
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Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle on Aug. 19, 2012
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