W.G.(Kayo) Welles, IV, who left a remarkable imprint on Florida agiculture in his 75 years, died in Arcadia on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013.
A descendant of two pioneer families, Kayo was born in Arcadia on February 27, 1938, the son of Barbara (Seward) Welles and W.G. Welles III.
His nickname came from an iconic character in the Moon Mullins comic strip.
When he was 9 his father took over the management of the huge Circle Bar Cattle Ranch near Labelle, and when he wasn’t in school, young Kayo soon found himself on horseback, working cattle across the open ranges of Southwest Florida.
At age 17, he was competing in rodeos in Immokalee, Miami, and Kissimmee, as well as Arcadia, where his family had been instrumental in forming the Arcadia All-Florida Championship Rodeo.
While attending the University of Florida, he married Sandra Wright, who was one of the treasures of his life over the next 56 years. They soon returned to Arcadia, and Kayo embarked on a life of raising a family, working cattle, selling fertilizer and growing oranges and watermelons.
“He knew what it was like to hold dirt in his hands,” said one of his daughters. “It wasn't just real estate to him. I think he loved the land almost as much as he loved his family. Whether it was a turkey hunt with family and friends, or his appreciation of an oak hammock while riding with cowboys, the land was how he made a life. As he grew older it might be a Thanksgiving in the woods, or a jeep ride with his grandchildren. He loved it all.”
Blessed with an inquisitive mind, a strong will, and a vision of the future, he soon began to assume a leadership role in agricultural circles. He served as president of the All Florida Championship rodeo, served as a long-term board member(and chairman) of the DeSoto National Bank(later SunTrust),as well as president of the Florida Cattleman's Association. Kayo also served on the board of the National and Florida Cutting Horse Associations. He loved good cutting horses, and rode competitively (and won prize money)until 2012.
In 1978 he began a 30-year stint as a board member of the Southwest Florida Farm Credit Association, which included 20 years as chairman, and a successful effort to move the FCA headquarters from Bradenton to Arcadia."This part of our state remains a vibrant agricultural region,"said Dallas Townsend, an old friend from the LaBelle days, at a 2008 retirement dinner."and in a large part, it is due to men such as Kayo Welles. He brought a wellspring of experience and wisdom, along with an understanding that change is the only constant in agriculture."
But many will remember him most fondly for a sudtle sense of humor, an occasional practical joke, and his ability to spin a story from Florida's not-so-civilized past."I thought my father was a good storyteller, but Kayo had him beat by a country mile," said another old friend."Sitting down with Kayo and sharing a laugh was as good as it got."
Mr. Welles is survived by his wife, Sandra W. Welles; three daughters: Amy W. Anderson of Okolona, MS, Tara Welles-Jones(Ron)of Arcadia, and Leslie Welles-Hale(Justin) of Arcadia;a brother Terry Welles(Susie); and seven grandchildren; James G. AndersonIII, W.G.Welles Anderson and Lara Kate Anderson of Okolona; Berkleigh Paige Hale,Alexis Cole Stinson,Sage Ashton Bevis and William Remington Jones of Arcadia; and one great grandson James G.Anderson IV.
Visitation will be held Thursday, August 8th from 5 until 8pm at First Presbyterian Church of Arcadia, 209 W. Hickory St., Arcadia.
Celebration of Life Service will be Friday, August 9th at 10:00am at First Presbyterian Church.
In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the Arcadia Tidewell Hospice, the First Presbyterian Church of Arcadia, or the Arcadia Rodeo Association, Youth Scholarship Fund.
Online condolences can be made at pongerkaysgrady.com.
Ponger-Kays-Grady Funeral Homes are in charge of the arrangements.
E-mail (required, but will not display)
Notify me of follow-up comments
Click for a larger view