Norma Jean Welch (Jean), 84, passed away on September 16, 2020 at her home in Franklin, North Carolina. Ms. Welch was retired from an extensive career as band director for the band and music program at Franklin High School. She is loved, admired and missed by the many hundreds of students who were part of music education and marching band programs at the High School.
Ms. Welch was born in1936 in Franklin to a musical family which influenced her life’s work. The Wilburn Welch family occupied an idyllic valley at the end of Edwards Road in Burningtown where her father, Ralph “Red” Welch, his parents and many brothers and sisters enjoyed playing a wide variety of instruments. She grew up with her father, her mother, Ethel Teague Welch and her sister, Shirley Marie Welch (Rowe) at the same house on Curtis Street where she spent her last night. She attended both Franklin Elementary School and Franklin High School. The old High School burned to the ground before her eyes and she soon found the only surviving instrument in the music department ashes was her horn which she took as a sign for her to set her life’s goals. She graduated from Western Carolina “cum laude” with a music degree and returned for her Master’s degree in 1970. The next nine years were spent touring Europe in a Volkswagon Camper, seeing the Western U.S., Canada and teaching music in the schools of Craven County. She was elusive as to which she enjoyed most. In 1968 she came home to Franklin where for the next twenty years she became a bit of a legend in band circles, teaching literally thousands of students more than just music. Character, intellectual growth and integrity she felt, were just as important as learning to play an instrument. She taught that developing a love and appreciation of music that her students carried with them for the rest of their lives usually departing with a graduation present of a copy of Max Ehrmann’s “Desiderata” and instructions to, above all, live a good life.
Jean developed a love of golf in later years and was surrounded by new, loving friends who shared her passion for hitting a small white ball, walking after it and hitting it again. The relationships which grew from her love of the game lasted until the end and she was surrounded by their warmth and love every day for the last months of her life. She took to heart her advice to departing students and lived a very good life in order to: “Be cheerful. Strive to be Happy.”
Ms. Welch is survived by her nephews, Michael Rowe (Susan), Gregory Rowe (Rhonda) and niece Linda Rowe Nolin and great nephews and nieces Collin Rowe (Heather) and children Hudson, Vayle, and Isabelle; Tyler Rowe and daughter Skylar ; Aaron Rowe, Katie Rowe, Shelby Elaine Nolin Magers (Patrick) and son Anderson: Justin Cotton (Kelly) daughters Caroline and Allie: Jonathan Cotton and son Raymond.
A Going Home service for Ms. Welch will be held on Monday, September 21, 2020 at Bryant-Grant Funeral Home Chapel in Franklin beginning with visitation at 12:00pm and services at 2:00pm. Graveside services will follow at Burningtown Baptist Church Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Burningtown Cemetery maintenance fund.
Bryant-Grant Funeral Home and Crematory is serving the Welch family. Online condolences can be made at www.bryantgrantfuneralhome.com
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