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Venerable volunteer: Dedicated worker leaving Worthington to return home

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WORTHINGTON -- Cyril "Cy" Welter is a man of few words. It's obvious from even a brief conversation that he'd rather do something than talk about it.

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Perhaps that's what makes Welter an asset to local organizations such as the American Legion, RSVP and Senior Dining. Welter's recent announcement that he is moving to Pipestone left such groups lamenting the loss of a stalwart volunteer.

But a move to Pipestone is really a return home for Welter. He was born in Pipestone County and grew up in Woodstock, where his dad was a businessman. Like most young lads of the time, Welter heeded the call to military service, entered the U.S. Army and spent time in both the European and Pacific theaters during World War II. Unlike many others, he returned unscathed.

It was the need for a job that brought him south, to Nobles County.

"Campbell's (Soup Co.) needed help," Welter recalled. "There were no jobs to be had in Pipestone County. They didn't have any industry back then. They didn't build up the industry until later."

Welter worked in production at Campbell Soup Co. for 25 years and eight months. He thought the company treated him right, and he reciprocated by being a dedicated worker.

"I always got along with them," he said. "As long as you did your work. The ones who didn't do their work were the ones who got in trouble."

Welter retired on April 1, 1983. But with such a deeply ingrained work ethic, he wasn't a man to sit around and do nothing. So Welter became a volunteer.

At the time, Senior Dining was located in downtown Worthington, in the former Worthington Community Center building on Ninth Avenue. Another volunteer invited Welter to a meal at Senior Dining, and he was soon a regular at the site.

"Before I started driving, I helped out in the kitchen after meals," Welter explained. "Now I've been driving for at least 15 years."

Welter, who's never married, has lived at Sunshine Apartments, a senior complex, for two years. He regularly picks up other Senior Diners and takes them to the meal site, now located at the American Legion Post on Oxford Street.

Long before it became home to Senior Dining, the Legion post was a place that meant a lot to Welter. He's been a Legionnaire since returning from military service and consequently one of its most devoted volunteers.

"It's a great organization," he said. "The Legion was largely responsible for us getting our state bonus after World War II."

Welter was also part of a group of Legion members who lobbied for a Minnesota Veterans Home in southwest Minnesota.

"A group of us went to St. Paul, back in the late 1980s, to try to convince our senators and representatives to get the VA nursing home down here," he remembered. "Two busloads of us went up there."

As part of the county Legion council, Welter regularly visits the veterans home in Luverne, helping with a bingo event each January and July. He's proud to have played a small role in getting the facility built.

He's also proud to serve on the local post's Honor Guard. Last year, the Honor Guard presided over military honors at 40 funerals.

"He always stops and picks me up for Honor Guard or when we go to Luverne to run the bingo game for the veterans," said fellow Legion member Dick Koeneke. "Cy is the guy who kept us reminded all the time. I don't know what we're going to do without him."

Welter was honored as one of Nobles County's Senior Citizens of the Year in 1995, and represented the county at the Minnesota State Fair that year. He wants to continue to be a loyal volunteer and keep active once he gets situated in Pipestone, although he's mindful of his own limitations.

"I've been thinking of giving up the Honor Guard, at least in the wintertime," he explained. "We were doing a military funeral over by Reading one afternoon, and there was a crust over the snow, and I broke through it. I fell carrying the flag. But I want to be able to do the same things in Pipestone, if they need help, especially in the summertime. I won't be too far from the American Legion post home up there."

In Pipestone, Welter will also live at a senior citizen complex, and he knows that there's an active senior citizens organization. He still has some family members there, but one of the motivators for the move is even more practical. He'll be closer to the Royal C. Johnson Veterans Administration Hospital in Sioux Falls, S.D., where he receives his medical care. The move will cut his drive time considerably.

On Tuesday, during a farewell party at the Senior Dining program, Welter was feted with cards, cake, accordion music and well wishes from the many people whose lives he's touched over the years. He promised to come back for the occasional visit.

"Meeting people -- I guess that's what I've enjoyed the most," he said.

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Beth Rickers
Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at http://lagniappe.areavoices.com/.  
(507) 376-7327
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