For once in his life, Carl Welser found himself “speechless” when his fellow Hamburg Kiwanians pulled a fast one on him at its recent “Citizen of the Year” event.
Welser, who helped found the organization in 1981, was ready with five dozen handout sheets he had prepared in advance of the event that listed the names of the winners of the prestigious award since 2005, including that of the person he was told would win this year.
Instead, when the winner was announced, the honoree for 2017 was actually Welser, who said he was “completely blindsided.”
“I’m rarely left speechless,” he said, “but this was an exception.”
That’s an interesting position for a man so skilled in the use of words to find himself.
A lot of us best know Welser from his years writing his popular newspaper columns. “Parson to Person” ran from 1981 to 1995 in The Livingston County Press and Brighton Argus; “Tales from the Kohlrabi Patch” ran from 1995 to 2017 in the LCP, Argus, and Livingston Daily. (The Livingston Post is now proud to be his column’s new home.)
Lots of people also know Welser as the pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Hamburg for 30 years, a position in which he served from 1965 to 1995, leading his congregation in serving the greater good.
I count myself as lucky that Welser baptized my son nearly 18 years ago.
Welser’s life has been one of great service to his community.
A member of the Hamburg Township Fire Department from 1968 to 2003, Welser also served as the department’s chaplain, consoling victims and family members at the scene of accidents and structure fires, and counseling first-responders who provided care in difficult circumstances. He also instituted critical stress debriefing protocol for first responders providing critical care in extremely difficult circumstances.
Welser also served as an advocate for Fire Prevention Week in preschools and elementary schools. For years he’s visited classrooms throughout the district to talk about fire safety in the home.
One of my favorite Welser student projects was the Pinckney Community Schools’ “Empty Bowls,” in which the district teamed up with Gleaner’s Community Food Bank to raise both funds and awareness of hunger in the community. Welser organized the event and served as chief “Soup Seeker”; students put their creativity to the test and crafted ceramic bowls of all shapes and sizes; restaurants put their kitchens to good use and donated soup; and the community came together to share a humble meal.
Welser worked with the district and its students in a number of ways — including as officiant for Pinckney High Schools’ baccalaureate and graduation ceremonies — and he’s credited with putting the word “Community” into Pinckney Community Schools.
He was the visionary for St. Paul’s community-wide Vacation Bible School, which enrolled 800 kids and volunteers each summer. He’s been the officiant of the Hamburg Memorial Day Parade since 1965. And Welser has worked locally with the Community Substance Abuse Awareness Council, as well as regionally with the Southeast Michigan Council of Government.
I am also among the many to whom Welser introduced kohlrabi, a lesser-known, cabbage-like vegetable.
Welser’s efforts on behalf of kohlrabi as part of the Kohlrabi Grower’s Association are legendary. (You can read about the association’s local efforts to push back against an ad campaign of E. &. J. Gallo Wines by clicking here. And you can read some of Martha Stewart’s favorite recipes for kohlrabi by clicking here.)
Welser and his wife, Carole Ann, have been married since 1959, and together they have four children — Wendy (John) Wilkie of Brighton; Scott (Deborah) of Hamburg; Mark (Lisa) of Santa Monica, Calif.; and Heidi (Ray) Swanson of Pinckney — and seven grandchildren: Jessica (Scott) Kenyon of Brighton; David Welser of Hamburg; Jordan Welser of Detroit; Amanda Welserof Santa Monica, Califo.; and Karl, Erik and Aili Swanson of Pinckney.
You can leave congratulations for Welser on his Hamburg Kiwanis Citizen of the Year Award by commenting below.