After Nathalie Welch graduated from Minneapolis Central High School in 1944, she kept in contact with many classmates. Until recently, she helped organize class reunions every four years. When the school held a reunion to mark its 100th anniversary, she helped coordinate that, too.
Welch was passionate about getting people together. She did much of her work in the Roman Catholic church, where for nearly three decades she mentored women in leadership roles. Pope John Paul II presented her with the Holy Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Award, given to lay people and clergy for distinguished service to the church. It is the highest award given to laity by the papacy.
"She was her own social networking [site] who could connect people," said her daughter Mary Anne Welch Lavin, of Minneapolis. "That is what she did."
Welch died of pancreatic cancer March 25 at her home in Minneapolis. She was 83.
In 1946, she completed a two-year dental hygienist program at the University of Minnesota. She worked at a Richfield dental office until the early 1950s, when she had her first child.
She began volunteering at Holy Name Parish in south Minneapolis, where she supported the Boy and Girl Scouts and was president of the church's Holy Rosary Society, her daughter said.
Her desire to see women assume more leadership within the church led her to serve on the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women. She was past president of the organization. She was an excellent listener who gave people her undivided attention, those who knew her said.
"Her leadership within the church and her community was an example for all," said Elaine Monitor, a past president of the council. "She was always ready with a smile and words of encouragement."
Welch also served on the board of Catholic Charities and was involved with the Minneapolis Park Board, the Catholic Youth Center and Project for Pride in Living. In later years she was active at Visitation Catholic Church on Lyndale Avenue.
In addition to her daughter Mary Anne, Welch is survived by her husband of 60 years, Herbert (Tim) Welch, of Minneapolis; two sons, Mark of Denver and Peter of Minneapolis; three other daughters, Shannon Devine, Rita Pucci and Julie Thompson, all of Minneapolis; a sister, Elizabeth Marlyn Lasley of Richfield; 11 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Services have been held.