Obituary: Shirley Welch, 91, of Ludington.

December 21, 2021

Shirley Welch

Obituary: Shirley Welch, 91, of Ludington.

Major Shirley M. Welch (Ret.), 91, of 408 N. Lewis St., Ludington, was promoted to Glory Monday, December 20, 2021 at Ludington Woods retirement community.

Shirley Marie Johnson was born February 26, 1930 in Escanaba to Harry A. and Ina M. (Finstrom) Johnson. She graduated from Sexton High School in Lansing and was commissioned as a lieutenant in The Salvation Army in 1949. 

As a single officer, Lt. Shirley Johnson served in Ludington, Sturgis and Grand Rapids. She married Jeffery L. Welch on April 26, 1952. Together their officer career included appointments in Traverse City, Ludington, and Alpena; Mishawaka, South Bend, Fort Wayne and Indianapolis, Indiana. Her responsibilities were varied and many, and included secretarial, youth programming, Bible instruction, and Christmas Toyland. During a 14-year period the Welches suspended their officership and returned to Ludington at which time Shirley focused her energy on being a homemaker and grandmother, and hosting ladies’ home Bible studies. She and her husband retired from The Salvation Army in 1995 and continued to serve at the local Salvation Army. Shirley was Ladies Home League chaplain, Sunday School Record Sergeant, and Corps Council member, and regularly played piano for worship services.

Shirley had deep appreciation of her Swede-Finn heritage, and as a young person looked after her handicapped brother Harry Junior and her ailing grandmother. Naturally shy, humble, and sensitive, she was most comfortable serving out of the limelight, and was a rock-solid servant of Christ with uncompromising morals. She was a remarkable wife and mother whose faithful and consistent witness throughout life was an inspiration to her family and an example to all who knew her. Through the years, she remembered all family members on their birthday even as the family swelled to large numbers. She was known for her excellent cooking and baking skills, her love of music, singing and playing piano, and her careful, loving attention to raising her children with the remarkable result that, by God’s grace, all five became committed Christians. Each child has in turn married a dedicated Christian, has had a career in ministry and has raised their own God-loving children as well, many of whom are also now in ministry. This is perhaps Shirley’s greatest legacy.

Shirley was a prayer warrior and hungry student of the Bible. She continued hosting her weekly neighborhood Bible studies to age 90. These were attended by women of various Protestant denominations as well as Catholics who had the common desire to draw closer to God. Although Shirley enjoyed the fellowship and refreshments shared, she made clear that she had no interest in simply getting together to eat and talk; the Bible was always the focal point and the true purpose of meeting. 

Shirley was an avid letter writer, with words that reveal the passion of her heart:

 “There’s a lot of sin in this world – I hope you’ll be able to do something about it – I should say – let God use you to do something about it – I just can’t get away from the burden I feel for these lost souls.”  Also:  “I am praying you will make the right choices in all your plans for the future. You can listen to what others tell you, but you should only follow His leading.”

Survivors include five children, Keith (Sherrie) of Holland, Steven (Mary) of Lakeland, Fla., Jonathon (Kim) of Fond du Lac, Wis., Valerie (Jim) McDowell of Elgin, Ill., and Glenn (Sarah) of Marion, Ind.; 23 grandchildren; and 35 great-grandchildren; and one brother, Harold Johnson of New Hudson, Mich. 

She was preceded in death by her husband Jeffery L. Welch; her father and mother; one brother Harry Albin Johnson, Jr.; and one grandson, Andrew William Welch. 

A memorial service will be held in the summer of 2022. She has been interred at Lakeview Cemetery. Those wishing to make an expression of sympathy are asked to consider the Ludington Salvation Army.

“Jesus took my burden and left me with a song.”

Arrangements were entrusted to Oak Grove Funeral Home of Ludington, www.OakGroveLudington.com. 

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