by Olivia Martin
GARDNER — Anna Welch knew her husband for a couple months before she proposed tying the knot.
And at 91, she still knows how to get things done.
Welch has been the sacristan at Divine Mercy Parish in Gardner since 1990, when she moved there with her husband to fill a position at the post office.
“I love Gardner,” said Welch. “It’s just a beautiful little city.”
Welch does her best to give back to the community she loves so much. A member of the parish choir and the Legion of Mary, a eucharistic minister and the parish sacristan, Welch makes good use of her time serving her community, no matter what.
“She is a tremendous role model,” said Nadyne Castonguay, a longtime friend of Welch’s, as well as a fellow choir and Legion of Mary member. “Whatever she’s in charge of is timely and well-done. . . . Seeing the things that she does makes you want to do them.”
Welch and Castonguay visit area nursing homes and hospitals together every Tuesday for about five hours, normally seeing between 17 and 23 people.
“They allow themselves between 15 and 20 minutes a visit because they have so many,” said Steve Branch, a friend and former neighbor of Welch’s.
In addition to her hospital visits and helping with all of the Masses in Gardner, Welch always makes time to pray morning prayer and a rosary before getting ready at 5 o’clock each morning.
Though always an organized individual, Welch attributes much of her can-do spirit to her time serving as a sergeant in the Army during the Korean War.
“The army was great,” she said. “It helped me. I really enjoyed what I did in the service. I met a lot of beautiful people of all races.”
She even met her husband there.
Although she was never deployed to Korea herself, her husband was just after they were married. That left Welch in the States as they each completed 27 months of service.
“Veterans are a little bit different,” said Branch, a fellow veteran. “Most of them are extremely dependable. If they decide to do something, they’re going to do it properly. They help others, and they’re very courteous. They’re giving people.”
According to Castonguay, that describes Welch perfectly.
“[She’s] never-failing, always there, [and] the go-to person to answer questions,” she said.
Giving her time to the community has been surprising and rewarding for Welch.
“People are very appreciative of what you do for them,” she said.
And her dependability, perseverance and strong faith have not gone unnoticed outside her immediate community.
“I’m a Lutheran,” said Branch. “I’m an elder in my church and, as such, you speak freely about Christ.
“And I can do that with Annie even though her religion is different.
“She’s the epitome of what a Catholic should be.”