He's the perfect example of an influential early figure who had an
important presence in the city -- enough to be mentioned in history
books multiple times, enough to have a park named after him -- but
whose heroic reputation faded over the decades, simply because time
I had never heard of Harry Welch and neither had a few local
long-timers I consulted. And believe me, I asked my most
knowledgeable Newport Beach experts, people who know at least a
little something when everyone else knows nothing. Still, the name
But a quick glance into historical texts immediately proved that
Welch served Newport Beach from the minute he got to the city until
his final years.
He arrived in Newport Beach in 1923 and immediately joined the
city's Chamber of Commerce. He served as executive secretary of the
group and for 13 years, led the challenge of improving the harbor
with federally appropriated funds. For that, city leaders decided to
name a park in Newport Dunes the Harry Welch Park, according to Ellen
K. Lee's "Newport Bay -- A Pioneer History."
But harbor improvement was just one of his causes.
It is because of efforts led largely by Welch that homes along the
water today go all out come Christmas time with lights. During
earlier decades, Welch is said to have "championed" the holiday
tradition with a motto that advocated "Forty Miles of Christmas
Smiles," according to James Felton's "Newport Beach, the First
Century, 1888 to 1988."
He founded the Orange County Coast Assn., put together a
development campaign for Orange Coast College and had a significant
hand in getting boat-building contracts for city shipyards.
Welch was also very dedicated and involved in the building of Hoag
His local recognition continued to grow -- Newport Beach named him
Man of the Year in 1952 -- and he became president of the California
Assn. of Chamber of Commerce Secretaries.
In the more personal arena, Welch served as the vestryman at St.
James Episcopal Church in Newport Beach and was one of the earliest
members of the Newport Harbor Elks Lodge, according to Felton's book.
He died in 1954 at the age of 78. He was two years short of
celebrating Newport Beach's 50th anniversary, which he dedicatedly
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