Welch Keeps a Packed Schedule: CU Times 25th Anniversary
Mike Welch, CU Times’ former owner and publisher, firmly denied he retired and maintained he has more to do with his time now than he ever did when he ran the publication.
“I didn't retire,” Welch said in an April 2015 interview. “I hate the word retired. That's something old people do. When I left the Times in 2005, I stopped working. I didn't retire.”
Instead, Welch said his love of travel and visiting different places and cultures, along with family and home commitments, have provided him with plenty to do.
“I always feel sorry for those people who quit working and then complain they have nothing to do,” Welch said. “Or they have to find some hobby or something to occupy their time. That's never been a problem for me. I’m with those people who say now that they stopped working, they wonder where they found the time to go to an office!”
Along with his wife Judy, Welch continued the traveling that characterized his time with CU Times, deliberately choosing trips that take them to places and allow them to mingle with people whom most Americans never see.
“I don't put down Europe,” he said. “We have been to Europe and we liked it. But we really like going places where we can have experiences that just aren't possible in places that a lot of tourists get to.”
Welch described a trip that took place a few years ago, in which he and his wife traveled by boat up the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar, the Southeast Asian country that used to be known as Burma.
The couple made the trip on a boat that held only 43 passengers very soon after the country's military government yielded control and began moving toward Democracy. The Irrawaddy served as a main conduit for commerce and transportation in the country, but Welch described how they stopped in villages where residents had never met Westerners or Americans and had never seen technologies such as digital cameras.
“We had a lot of fun on that trip through our interactions with people who had never seen people like us,” Welch said.
But Welch also said he and Judy are prudent about where they travel. The couple had planned a trip to the Black Sea region of Ukraine, but postponed their plans after the region became politically unstable.
“Two of the locations we really wanted to visit on that trip were Yalta, which is significant of course because of the conference held there during World War II,” Welch said. “And also Sochi, where the most recent winter Olympics had been held.”
When both of those were taken off the agenda, Welch said they didn't want to go if they couldn't stop there.
“Why go to a place where you can't see what you want to see?” he asked. “There are so many other places to go where you can see what you want.”
The couple also travels with family. Recently Welch and Judy travelled on safari to Africa, spending time in both Kenya and Tanzania.
Read more: Family visits keep Welch occupied as well...
“Of course Kenya now is getting a bit less stable, and I am not sure we would make that trip now,” Welch said. “But Tanzania is still OK, and we spent most of our time there anyway.”
Family provides still more things for him to do, Welch said. He and Judy have five children and seven grandchildren now, and their lives are complicated because the families have spread across four states.
The geographic distance between them makes scheduling an important task and means they do not always see each other as often as they would like, Welch said, but they manage. For example, Welch noted that he and Judy had two dance recitals waiting when they returned to Wisconsin as well as a high school graduation.
Chuckling a little, Welch also described how family has kept him in the publishing business, albeit on a smaller scale. Welch said he puts together a periodic newsletter that helps keep the four-state family up to date and anticipating future events.
Welch acknowledged many of the family members have Facebook accounts, but said the newsletter contained the sort of internal family news and photos that many would not necessarily want to put online.
Welch, who split his time while at the Times between two homes in Wisconsin and a home in Florida, said he also still maintains those residences. He describes the location of his regular Wisconsin home as “God's country,” and his second Wisconsin home, which he and his family use during the summers, is on the shore of one of the state's many lakes. The Florida home is a winter abode that Welch said offers the chance for him to do outdoor activities during Wisconsin's cold winters.
Welch said splitting life among three locations also helps keep him busy.
“Each house has to be shut up and protected when you leave and then reopened and gotten ready when you come back,” he said.
Welch said he does not regret leaving his work with credit unions, where his more than 800 weekly columns had made his voice and views a staple among credit union leaders.
“No one likes those hangers-on, you know,” Welch said. “Those are people who should have moved off a while ago and left some space for the next generation of leaders. I didn't want to be one of those people.”
That was why Welch said he declined the wave of speaking offers and consulting requests he got in the years after he sold CU Times, and, now that he has been away from it for more than a decade, he would not be qualified to speak or consult on any of today's issues.
He also said he didn't miss the work at CU Times, but that he missed the regular interactions with what he called the extraordinary people who wrote and produced the paper week after week.
“I am really proud of the people at Credit Union Times,” Welch said. “I was proud of every issue, but I was really most proud of the people.”