Rotary 'mourns' demotion of President Greg Welch

Greg Welch arrives at his Rotary demotion ceremony. Photos by Lorine Parks

Greg Welch arrives at his Rotary demotion ceremony. Photos by Lorine Parks

If a Hawaiian shirt-clad man driving a hearse sounds like the start of a joke, that’s because it is; and on this day, Greg Welch was the punchline.

“He only knew that we were coming in the hearse,” said Barbara, Welch’s wife. It wasn’t until Welch got out at the Embassy Suites and saw all the others greeting him in black suits and somber ties that he realized he’d been the subject of an elaborate practical joke.

Welch was about to attend his demotion ceremony as departing President of the Rotary Club of Downey, and everyone was to dress in mourning for the passing of his presidency. Everyone but Welch, that is: he’d been told the dress was Hawaiian. Together Barbara and Greg operate Risher Mortuary and Cremation Services in Downey and Montebello, so the dearly departed theme was a natural.

How could a secret be kept by 80 people? It helped that Greg and Barbara have been out of the country for several weeks, across the seas in Germany, attending a Rotary International Convention, to cap Greg’s year as president of the service club.

Guests were checked in by club treasurer Barbara Lamberth, wearing a full widow’s veil over a broad-brimmed hat, very becoming. Table decorations included a closed metal urn instead of a floral centerpiece, and décor consisted of sprays of white gladiolas.

Most Rotarians wore black suits, like Judy Reynolds’s little black number and Jim Reynold’s tux with black vest and satin lapels. The only other Hawaiian touch was Dr. Dan Fox’s Aloha shirt from his vast collection. Retired Juvenile Court Judge Phil Mautino could have worn his robes, but he chose a gangster-like black shirt, tie, and suit instead.

Jaimee Sul Baker wore a perky bow hat with a tiny face-skimming veil. She accompanied husband Doug, a two-time past district governor of Rotary and one of the eulogists, as the roasters were called. Doug had a genuine scare with a lung embolism in Maui a few weeks ago, but rallied to come to the party.

Greg and Barbara Welch, and Doug Baker.

Greg and Barbara Welch, and Doug Baker.

Also seen: past president Diane Davis with hubby John, whose dad Don Davis was not only a past president of Downey Rotary Club in 1987-88, but served Downey long and well as fire chief and then city manager before retiring to Coto de Caza. Diane was in black and John in an even blacker embossed silk jacket.

Not only were Welch and his Board of Directors demoted, the evening also featured the installation of new president Nathan Mahoney, whose job as president-elect had been to organize this going-away party.

When Welch was saying his thank-you’s, his advice to Nate was, “Get yourself another Nate. I couldn’t have done it without you backing me so capably.”

Nate Mahoney and Greg Welch.

Nate Mahoney and Greg Welch.

Incoming president-elect is Maurice Casaus, general manager of the Embassy Suites, and vice president is Jesse Vargas, of Farmers & Merchants Bank in Downey.

Secretary Debbie Fox, administrator at the First Baptist Church and treasurer Barbara Lamberth, retired CEO of Downey Federal Credit Union, round out the list of officers.

“They say 20% of the members often do 80% of the work, said Welch. “But in our club, everyone has been working to get things done.

“My last thank you is to Jim Reynolds,” said Welch. “Because he’s the one who asked me, ‘Have you ever considered joining Rotary?”

“Of course I had considered it,” said Welch. “My wife had been in it for 28 years, and she was a past district governor. And her father was a Rotarian in Montebello with perfect attendance for 48 years. But until Jim, no one had actually asked me to join.

“Be like Jim, and ask someone to join the club. Sometimes that is all that it takes.”

News, FeaturesLorine Parks