Greg Welch: funeral director and personal trainer

DOWNEY - "By day, I work as a physiologist; by night, I'm a funeral director," says Greg Welch, who is an exercise physiologist by inclination and education and for 30 years has been serving (by appointment) as director of personal training at Downey Family YMCA. Marriage to Barbara Risher in 1982 added a dimension to the trajectory. Barbara's parents, Ray and Marge Risher, had founded Risher Mortuary & Cremation Services in 1959 and since Barbara had started working for the family business shortly after she got married while concurrently serving as charge nurse and supervisor in the Emergency Room of Montebello's Beverly Hospital, it was inevitable that some of the family's funeral services culture would rub off on Greg.

In fact, the newly-married couple lived on top of the original Risher Mortuary building in Montebello for 10 years.

He says he and Barbara met in college and they dated for six years before getting married. Barbara had earned a BS in nursing from Cal State Los Angeles in 1981.

When her 92-year-old dad passed away in 2010, "Barbara and I took over the business," says Greg, with Barbara officially assuming the titles of corporate president and owner.

"She basically runs Risher's marketing function full-time," he explains, "while I focus on the community development aspect of the business. This is extremely important, to let people know that we can take better care of them because we're family-owned."

This matter of family ownership, Greg goes on, is "what enables us to provide our clients better care and our services more affordable in contrast to those given by large corporations."

Greg sees Risher Mortuary's role as a "ministry to the bereaved," taking its cue from the Bible. Thus a major promotional responsibility is "going to churches, service clubs, chambers of commerce, and other organizations to build relationships. We're also addressing the needs of the underserved population of the city because of their socio-economic disadvantage." A case in point, he says, is Risher's recent unpublicized assistance to the Dodi Soza family.

Greg joined the Rotary "six to seven months ago." He says Risher Mortuary and the Rotary are both about service, and therefore he feels a kinship with the aims and programs of the club. It's no secret, he says, that Barbara herself, not to mention her departed parents, has played an active and leading role in the Rotary Club of Montebello as well as other service organizations there.

Greg, of Irish-Welsh-German ancestry, was born in Lynwood and raised in Santa Fe Springs. "My dad was from Missouri, while my mom came from Chicago," he says.

Barbara and Greg, who reside in Seal Beach, have four kids: Nathan, 25, is a Purdue graduate and pilot in the Air Force, who is currently deployed in the Middle East and has flown several missions over Iran and Afghanistan; Zachary, 24, is an auxiliary firefighter for the city of Santa Fe Springs; Kailie, 19, is with the Air Force ROTC Nursing program at the University of Alabama; and Jenna, 16, attends Orange Lutheran High School in Orange (A soprano, "she's a soloist and sings for many of our funerals," says her proud dad. You should hear her sing, 'Oh Danny Boy' and 'God Bless America', too."

Greg's other career as a practicing exercise physiologist and as president of his own Seal Beach-based SpeciFit Foundation, which he describes as an "agency of wellness and competitive performance enhancement," continues to thrive as well.

His accomplishments in the field through the years are noteworthy: traveling extensively, he has lectured to personal trainers across the country and has published several articles in a wide spectrum of national journals. He serves on the board of advisors of the Lifespan Wellness Center at Cal State Fullerton, is the consulting physiologist to the Heartwise Fitness Institute in Whittier, CA, and is a senior instructor for the American Academy of Fitness Professionals, while serving as a consultant to the American Senior Fitness Association as well.

Even before all this, Greg was involved in volleyball "at a variety of levels" for twenty years, and in 1984 was the athletic training coordinator for volleyball at the XXIII Olympiad in Los Angeles and for two years served as the consulting physiologist to the Women's Professional Volleyball Association (WPVA).

It's obvious Greg's cup runneth over.

********** Published: Feb. 13, 2014 - Volume 12 - Issue 44