Lawrence Welk's sister, Eva Welk of Aberdeen, fondly remembers
her famous bandleader brother.
"I would have done anything for him," she said Monday.
"He was such a wonderful brother to all of us."
In Aberdeen and around the Dakotas, family, friends and fans
of Lawrence Welk mourned the musician's death. Welk, 89 had
been battling pneumonia, and died peacefully Sunday night. His
television show was seen by millions in its 30-year history.
Many local people knew Welk or had seen him play on his frequent
trips across the Dakotas in the `30s and `40s.
Welk and his band played at the Aberdeen Civic Arena, and at
the Wylie and Tacoma Park pavilions. He also appeared in Groton,
the Cottonwood Lake Pavilion and other local spots.
He worked hard to achieve his success, said Eva Welk, the youngest
of eight Welk children.
She proudly showed off her favorite picture of Lawrence. "Doesn't
he look sober in this picture?" she asked. "The last
few years after he made it, he always had a smile. But then,
he was serious. I think he knew he had a long way to go."
Although those early years were rough for Lawrence, Eva said
he never forgot the values his parents taught him.
"When he first started out, my parents weren't too anxious
for him to be in show business," Eva said. "But when
he would be out playing until about 4 in the morning, he would
wait and go to the 6 o'clock Mass before he went to bed. I told
my parents,`You're always worried about Lawrence, but he's the
best one you have.'"
Fame and fortune did not change Lawrence, Eva said.
"It's amazing that he stayed the way he did. With all
the temptation he had, he stayed the way he was raised."
For many years, Lawrence came back once a year to visit relatives
in Strasburg, N.D., and would then come to see Eva in Aberdeen.
An avid golfer, Welk played at the Aberdeen Country Club, Eva
"I would fix him breakfast before he would go out to play
golf. He never missed it. He would fly back every year."
Others who met Welk also remembered him kindly.
"He was a good-hearted boy," said Sophie Kuebler,
90, of Aberdeen, who met Welk in Wishek, N.D. She remains a
Welk fan. "This week we were watching him on TV (on reruns).
We watched him every night he was on."
When he was a boy, Karl Bachmayer, 78, of Faulkton, met Welk.
"Our Boy Scouts took care of the check room for the dances
he played at," Bachmayer said. "He was a very nice
person. He had a real nice Dixieland band, and was very popular.
He drew big crowds all through the area wherever he played.
We were just kids and the band came in to play, and we enjoyed
his music and he was real nice to us."
As a youth, Don Hall of Aberdeen also met Welk. Hall's father,
John S. Hall, now deceased, booked Welk into the Rose Room above
Miller's Store in Groton.
"I remember one February there was a blizzard," Hall
said. "The band got there but nobody else did. My dad said,
`Well, you didn't bring them in but it wasn't your fault.' Lawrence
Welk said,`Forget the agreed-upon fee, but we need some money
for gas.' He didn't have a lot of money in those days."
As Welk's health failed in recent years, he stopped coming
back to the Dakotas.
Eva learned of her brother's death in a phone call from Lawrence's
daughter, Shirley Fredericks. Eva won't be attending Welk's
funeral in California.
"A few years back, he told me, `When I go, I want a private
funeral.' That's the way it's going to be."
Reprinted with permission of the Aberdeen American
with his sister Eva in a photo from 10 to 15 years ago.
Eva lives in Aberdeen.
A young Lawrence
and Fern Welk with their children: Donna, Lawrence II
Welk with his wife Fern.
at about age 30.
Welk, the smiling maestro whose "champagne music"
entertained millions of Americans during his 30 years
on television, has died. He was 89. Above, Welk holds
a poster promoting his show in Lincoln, Neb., in 1967.