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John Irving Welch 1933-2024

June 13, 2024
By Boca Beacon

John Irving Welch of Boca Grande and formerly of St. Petersburg, Florida, passed away peacefully on June 2, 2024, at the age of 91. 

John was born on February 18, 1933, to Mary Merrell Welch and John Parker Welch. 

He spent his childhood in St. Petersburg and graduated from the McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1951. A proud Gator, he received his undergraduate degree in Business Administration from the University of Florida in 1956. After graduating from college, John served for two years with the Third Armored Division in Germany. He then returned to St. Petersburg and joined the John P. Welch Agency where he began his 43-year career in the insurance industry. He was awarded the Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter designation in 1968. After a series of mergers and acquisitions over the years, John joined with William P. Wallace and Weyman T. Willingham, Jr. to form Wallace, Welch & Willingham (“W3”) in 1984. The fifty-employee agency was in the top 100 of privately held agencies in the country. John later served as the CEO of W3 until he retired in 2001.

John strongly believed in civic engagement and instilled in his children the importance of giving back to the community. His list of community service activities and civic leadership positions takes up several pages, but he was particularly proud of his twenty-five years of service on the Bayfront Medical Center Board of Directors, including acting as Chairman of the Board for five years. He also led several high-profile initiatives focused on improving the St. Petersburg community.  Most notably, he led a coalition of civic groups in a successful effort to revitalize the historic Coliseum building in downtown St. Petersburg known for having one of the most beautiful ballrooms in the South.  He also chaired a School Advisory Council responsible for significant renovations and upgrades to the historic St. Petersburg High School building after it had fallen into significant disrepair.  Most of his childhood friends and his children went to St. Pete High, and it was near and dear to his heart.  In his later years, he joked that he was the “self-proclaimed President of the Women’s Club Auxiliary” for the many times he happily hauled donations in the back of his truck to Boca Bargains, which raises money for children’s scholarships. 

John loved spending time outdoors and was passionate about fishing, boating, hunting, and camping.  He espoused a “work hard; play hard” philosophy, and his love of fishing led him to Boca Grande where he and his wife of 50 years, Jo Ann, purchased property in 1975. He decided early on he would retire on the island and drive a pick-up truck someday, and true to his word, he made that happen in 2002. John was beloved for his integrity, his honesty, his authenticity, and his quick wit.  He was a proud father and grandfather who loved his children and grandchildren unconditionally. He possessed a natural ability to befriend and earn the respect of people from all walks of life. Always one to enjoy a party, John was a warm and generous host who was appreciated for his masterfully grilled seafood and wild game, as well as for topping off the evening with a meticulously prepared flaming Bananas Foster. John was incredibly strong and resilient. Although he suffered many health setbacks over the years, he always managed to “keep on keeping on” and did not let cancer, strokes, or falls get in the way of enjoying his island retirement in “paradise” for more than two decades.  He will be missed by his loved ones for his sweet, boyish grin; his amazing memory and storytelling; his sewing and clown make-up artist skills; his extraordinary fishing, hunting, boating and mechanical prowess; and the small acts of kindness he quietly carried out throughout his life without fanfare or want of recognition. His family takes solace knowing he is at peace and enjoying catching his limit of keeper snook, trout, and grouper in that great fishing hole in the sky. 

John is predeceased by his parents; his sister, Toni; and his son, Bradley.

He is survived by numerous family members, including his wife, Jo Ann; his children, Ed and Leecia; his grandchildren, Fifer and Renly; and his great grandchildren, Rory and Robin.  

John’s family plans to celebrate his life on October 12, 2024, in St. Petersburg.

Memorial donations may be made to the Boca Grande Health Clinic at