Each of us has a hidden place
Somewhere deep within ourselves
Where we go to get away
To be alone to be ourselves
But every once in a while whether by chance or design
Someone finds a way into that secret place
That person adds perspective to our hidden realm
They quietly settle down in their own little corner
We call that person a friend
-Lillian R. Williams
This well- renowned motivational poet probably didn’t have 2005 Branford Sports Hall of Fame inductee Joseph A. Welch in mind when she wrote “Friendship” but the words truly Joe Welch: a true gentleman, honorable military man, sports fan and friend to the Branford community.
Born in New Haven, Joe was the fifth of seven children. He attended Hillhouse High School, until he enlisted in the United States Navy to defend our country during World War II.
He was employed by the Armstrong Rubber Company but it was his love of children which drew him to apply for a position with the Foster School for handicapped children in New Haven, Connecticut. He performed numerous positions within the school, including coaching sporting events.
Joe suffered a stroke and was stricken with numerous other ailments which forced him into early retirement at the age of 50. During this time, he was able to spend more time with his 2 daughters, Debi and Sally. Joe coached Sally’s numerous softball and basketball teams beginning in 1970 for the Branford Recreation Department. He also umpired Buddy League baseball for many years. When Sally entered high school, tonight’s inductee began to attend the high school football practices. He became a “fixture” for the teams beginning in 1974 and ended in 1982 when he decided to venture out of Branford in 1984 and move to Arizona to be near his two daughters. While around the Hornet football team, he attended practices day in and day out and got to know each and every player. Known for his unique ability for “picking kids up” who might have needed some added encouragement and positive feedback after a hard workout, Joe made a monumental impact on the youth of Branford by drawing an individual cartoon-sketch of all the athletes in Branford Little League baseball and Branford High School football. Tonight’s inductee especially liked to focus on the “second- stringer” or the kid who had a bad week. He then gradually started to paint “the Hornet” on all of the football helmets and found the time to paint the murals of athletes in action on the walls of the new weight room. Known as one Branford’s premier sports fans of all-time, Joe passed away in 1984 at the age of 63.