Helen Welch, a longtime resident of St. Ignace and Mackinaw City, established successful Mackinac Island ferry businesses, including Straits Transit Inc., with her husband, Richard C. Welch. Mrs. Welch died April 4, 2005, in Pasadena, California, at the age of 96.
Mr. and Mrs. Welch moved from the Detroit area to St. Ignace in 1947 and established a successful business delivering mail and supplies to Mackinac Island, with several boats and an airplane they purchased from Les Emory. The Welch Line operated from both St. Ignace and Mackinaw City. They moved to Mackinaw City in 1950, and dropped the St. Ignace runs in 1952.
The couple, with four partners, organized the Mackinac Island Ferry Company in 1953 and operated three passenger boats between Mackinaw City and Mackinac Island. That company was bought out by organizers of Straits Transit Company in 1958, former state car ferry employees who bought the Straits of Mackinac after the Mackinac Bridge was opened. Mr. Welch, who had left the boat business following a heart attack, would become Straits Transit’s president and general manager 10 years later.
The Straits of Mackinac was pulled from service at the end of the 1968 season and the company was later purchased by Arnold Transit.
In the late 1960s, R.C. Welch served as mayor of Mackinaw City.
The Welches retired to Port Charlotte, Florida, in 1972.
Mr. Welch died in 1983 and Mrs. Welch moved to Pasadena, near her son, in 1985.
Mrs. Welch is survived by her son and his family, Lloyd R. and Irene Welch, three granddaughters, and five great-grandchildren.