Patrick Junkin Welch, 66

LAKE CLARKE SHORES, Fla. -Born June 23, 1947, in East Liverpool, Ohio, to Helen Vernia Welch and Edward Mitchell Welch of Wellsville, Ohio, Patrick Junkin Welch died of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease at his home in Lake Clarke Shores, Florida.

Board-certified in internal medicine, gastroenterology, and geriatric medicine, Pat practiced as a gastroenterologist in West Palm Beach for 26 years. Pat’s inspiration to study and practice medicine was his hometown doctor, George Kemeny, a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps and a learned, kind, and dedicated physician. His parents, particularly his mother, were delighted with his career path. Pat was loyal to his origins. He never forgot that he was the son of a steelworker and a schoolteacher, and when he was in school he labored as a steelworker and even as a garbageman. He numbered among his lifelong friends the boys and girls he grew up with. As someone once said of him, “Pat never made a friend he didn’t keep.”

Pat’s education was wide and varied. He studied at Youngstown State University and Kent State in Ohio and attended medical school for a year at the University of Bologna in Italy. He attained his MD at the Medical College of Ohio at Toledo. Then followed three years of internship at the University of Pittsburgh and three years of residency training in gastroenterology at the University of Miami.

In 1970, Pat married his high school sweetheart, Toby Weekley. She accompanied him to Italy for his year in medical school in Bologna. They were two young Midwesterners who spoke not of a word of Italian, and in many ways it was a challenging year, but they made lifelong friends and grew to love Italy and the Italian people. They went back many times, to visit nearly every corner of the country, in the ensuing years.

Perhaps it was the Pittsburgh winter, but Pat and Toby decided to settle in Florida after his internship, and they never moved back north. They raised their four children, twins Adam and Michael, Eamon, and Amanda, in the Sunshine State, in Miami, West Palm Beach, and finally in the home they built on Lake Clarke. He welcomed daughters-in-law Monica, Abby, and Meghan to the widening family circle, and then grandchildren Benjamin, Elsa, Riley, Bradley, and Keira, by whom he was called Pops or Popsy.

Pat was an engaged and involved parent, even though his profession was demanding and his schedule tight. He saw the ball games, concerts, and school performances. He made time for family vacations and family fun. An athlete from his youth- Pat set Ohio schoolboy records as a pass receiver in football, played basketball and ran track- as an adult he was an avid runner, skier, tennis player, and hardcore cyclist. For years, he rose in the darkness and rode his bicycle all around Palm Beach before he went off to work. One of his best memories was a bicycle trip through Italy with his son Michael a few years ago. He became a proficient fly fisherman and went through a motorcycling phase, buying himself a beautiful blue BMW motorcycle. He was a fanatical fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, passing that team loyalty on to his children.

His love of travel was not limited to Italy. He and Toby and family traveled all over Florida, to the Carolinas, to New York and New England, west to California, Utah, where they enjoyed ski vacations, and Colorado, where they owned a condo in ski country. They visited the Caribbean and spent time in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, a city they loved. Ireland was a frequent destination for Pat, in the company of assorted friends and family members. Because Ireland was the country of his paternal grandmother’s birth, he was eligible for and became a dual citizen of the United States and the Republic of Eire.

Not a solitary fellow, Pat loved sharing his life with his family and friends. He loved telling jokes and pulling pranks, drinking beer or a good red wine, going to the movies, dancing- even at the closing of his life some familiar oldie would get him swaying and smiling. There is no doubt Pat’s life was cut short by a most cruel disease, but the life he led, even at moments near the end, was full and good. Pat leaves behind wonderful lessons about how to live well, how to be a friend, and how important it is to be yourself. He will always be remembered with a smile by those who had the great good fortune to know him. In addition to his wife, children, their spouses, and his grandchildren, Pat is survived by his brother, Michael, nine nieces and nephews, and 15 great-nieces and -nephews. He was predeceased by his sister, Virginia Welch Roos, and his parents.

Pat died of Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease at 66 years old.

There will be a memorial service at the Welch home with a wake to follow on Sunday, Feb. 23 at 4:30 p.m. All are welcome. In lieu of flowers, please make contributions to Hospice of Palm Beach County or The Alzheimer’s Association.