First Harvard selectwoman, dedicated to public service
Mary Welch. (Courtesy photo)
Mary Eddison Welch, the first woman to serve on Harvard’s Board of Selectmen, died Nov. 22, 2018, in Bedford, shortly after celebrating her 101st birthday.
Mary devoted much of her life to public service, including more than 30 years in Harvard before moving to Carleton-Willard Village in Bedford in 1997. She was elected to the Board of Selectmen in 1980 and served two terms. She was a strong supporter of efforts to build elderly housing in town, and she fostered better communication between the selectmen and the public. Before that, she had been a member of the Board of Health, the Council on Aging, a trustee of the Warner Free Lecture Fund, and was a founding member of the Minuteman Home Care board. One of her favorite appointments was as fence viewer, which required annually walking the town’s boundaries. She was part of a group that started the Harvard-Roxbury summer program after the widespread urban unrest of 1967, providing an opportunity for young people in Harvard and Roxbury to spend two weeks together and develop friendships, some of which have lasted to this day. She was active in the Harvard League of Women Voters for years, serving as president from 1986 to 1988.
Mary was born in Ardsley-on-Hudson, New York, one of five children of William Barton Eddison and Mary Corbin Eddison. She graduated from The Masters School in New York, St. Timothy’s School in Maryland, and Bennington College in Vermont. After college, she married E. Sohier Welch Jr., with whom she shared a remarkable and loving relationship for 64 years until his death in 2004. After the war, the couple settled in Framingham and raised four children. Mary was a Girl Scout leader there and a member of the School Committee and the Conservation Commission. In 1964 they bought land on Bolton Road from the Fiske-Warren estate and built a contemporary house.
She volunteered for many years locally and nationally and was widely known for her warmth, insightfulness, and tenacity. A Girl Scout for 90 years, she served in various capacities from local troop leader to member of the national board of directors. She was active in the Unitarian Universalist Church in Framingham, Harvard, and Bedford, serving on building committees, ministerial searches, and parish councils. She was proud to serve as a director of the Dana McLean Greeley Foundation for Peace and Justice and as a trustee of Bennington College.
Mary was employed as chief administrator for the Mystic Valley Mental Health Center in the 1970s. She served on the Massachusetts Committee on Children and Youth and was a delegate to the 1960 White House Conference on Children and Youth. She was honored by Minuteman Home Care for her work as a founder and member, helping seniors to age with dignity at home. At Carleton-Willard Village, Mary served as president of the Residents Council.
She leaves her four children: Edward S. Welch of Fairfax, Virginia; William B. Welch of San Mateo, California; Polly Welch of Brookline; and Anne Lazor of Westfield, Vermont; seven grandchildren: Ned, David, Will, Nancy, Liliana, and Katherine Welch and Christine Lazor; seven great-grandchildren, and many devoted nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews, including Forbes and Marina Christie, who also lived in Harvard.
Her family will greatly miss the large family gatherings she hosted, her yearly poem on the state of the family and nation, and family vacations on Mount Desert Island, Maine, where she and Sohier spent many summers.
Memorial services are planned at Carleton-Willard Village and at the First Parish in Bedford Unitarian Church in late winter or early spring. Donations in Mary’s memory may be made to the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, 1034 Maine Street, Mount Desert, ME 04660.