Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Epilogue | John Welch

Retired Clearwater police Officer John Welch was a stickler to rules

CLEARWATER — As soon as he stepped inside his home, Officer John Welch took his shoes off. He set his keys and wallet on the table just inside the door.

The gun went into a locked cabinet. The belt landed on his dresser; the hat on a closet shelf.

He repeated these same steps over nearly 20 years as a Clearwater police officer. "There is a place for everything, and everything belongs in its place," Mr. Welch told his children.

But some things could not be so neatly put away. Mr. Welch survived an explosion in the Navy that killed fellow seamen. He escaped other dangerous situations as a firefighter and police officer. His family suspects some of those experiences left scars.

Mr. Welch, whose traumatic experiences made him a stickler for rules and routines — sometimes to a fault — died March 1 of lung cancer. He was 75.

Mr. Welch was below deck on the U.S.S. Bennington in 1954 when a catapult exploded. The blast set off other explosions, killing 103 crewmen and injuring 201 in one of the worst peacetime disasters in marine history.

"From then on he was very claustrophobic," said his daughter, Terese Hilliard.

Out of the Navy, Mr. Welch married and had children in New York. He worked for Mobil and volunteered as a firefighter. He wanted to be a police officer there, but he was considered too short at 5 feet 7, his family said.

In 1964, a burning furniture store collapsed on top of him while he was in the basement. He was hospitalized as much for psychological damage as physical. "The sounds, the water and the darkness absolutely panicked him to no end," said Hilliard, 52.

Mr. Welch moved to Florida in 1968 to join the Clearwater Police Department, which had no height restriction.

He wrote reams of parking tickets — so many that police Chief Sid Klein took away his summons book in 1985, citing his "lack of judgmental ability in the reasonable enforcement of parking violations."

In the mid 1980s, Mr. Welch was entered into a psychiatric hospital. He applied for a disability pension on his release, saying he lacked the confidence to carry a gun anymore. The request eventually succeeded.

Mr. Welch seemed to find contentment over the last decade, in part through a new set of routines. Every day at 3 p.m., he drove a golf cart to Eternal Rest Memory Park to visit his wife's grave. He always brought peanuts for the squirrels.

His daughter believes the traumas he suffered earlier in his life contributed to his strict and sometimes unreasonable adherence to rules and routines.

"Life was always about fulfilling his duties," she said. "A lot of the time, he was very black-and-white. It was kind of hard for him to look at those gray areas."


John Welch

Born: Sept. 23, 1934.

Died: March 1, 2010.

Survivors: Daughter Terese Hilliard; Sons John, William and Edward Welch; seven grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

Retired Clearwater police Officer John Welch was a stickler to rules 03/10/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 10, 2010 9:28pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Despite Hurricane Irma, Hillsborough remains on pace to unlock hotel tax that could pay for Rays ballpark


    TAMPA — Despite the threat of a catastrophic storm, it was business as usual at many Hillsborough County hotels in the days before Hurricane Irma bore down on the Tampa Bay region.

    The Grand Hyatt near TIA closed during Hurricane Irma, but many other Hillsborough hotels were open and saw an influx.
  2. Pinellas votes 7-0 to help sue Legislature over new law favoring charter schools


    LARGO — They said they had no choice but to do it. They said they would rather reach a compromise.

    Gov. Rick Scott, right, kicks off the 2017 legislative session on March 7 in Tallahassee. Scott later signed a massive education bill that is being challenged by several school districts. On Tuesday, Pinellas became one of them. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  3. Deputies find 24 dogs, 2 birds, 2 cats, 1 child in Hernando home

    Public Safety

    SPRING HILL —A woman was arrested Monday on charges of animal cruelty after deputies said they found injured animals at her Spring Hill home.

    Jennie Card, 44, was arrested on two counts of animal cruelty after deputies said they found her injured animals at her Spring Hill residence.[Courtesy of Hernando County Sheriff's Office]
  4. New Graham-Cassidy health care plan stumbles under opposition from governors


    WASHINGTON — The suddenly resurgent Republican effort to undo the Affordable Care Act was dealt a blow on Tuesday when a bipartisan group of governors came out against a proposal gaining steam in the Senate.

    Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., joined by, from left, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., speaks to reporters as he pushes a last-ditch effort to uproot former President Barack Obama's health care law, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. To win, 50 of the 52 GOP senators must back it -- a margin they failed to reach when the chamber rejected the effort in July. [/J. Scott Applewhite | Associated Press]
  5. Joe Maddon on being back at Trop, Cash, a new stadium


    More to come later, but a couple of quick early highlights from former Rays manager Joe Maddon's return to the Trop with the Cubs:

    Joe Maddon, right, speaks with Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey before Tuesday's game at Tropicana Field.