Chaplin at Sacred Heart
Never Met Famous Cousin
Wiebe, Joanna K. "Chaplin at Sacred Heart
Never Met Famous Cousin."
Rev. Thomas A. Welk would rather listen to folk
music than the Champagne music of his famous second cousin Lawrence
Welk. And Saturday evening ecclesiastical duties keep the Sacred
Heart College chaplain from watching Welk’s television show
or even attending his March 3 concert in Wichita.
But he respects the man who grew up in the same
town as he did, the tiny German-American farm community of Strasburg,
“Lawrence Welk got going playing the accordion
for the big three-day weddings in North Dakota,” Father
Welk explained. “He established himself by playing as cheaply
as possible for whomever wanted him. What made him so persistent
was his background.”
Lawrence Welk was the son of poor
immigrants who came from Germany via Russia to North Dakota. There
were no trees in the northern state and sod houses had to be dug
from the ground, to be heated by the buffalo chips young Lawrence
gathered. Lawrence’s father and Father Welk’s grandfather
were brothers, blacksmiths with shops on opposite ends of Strasburg.
“We still have my grandfather’s anvil,” Father
In German families, Father Welk said, there is a
tradition of handing down a family instrument from father to son.
In the Welk family, it was the accordion, and in the course of
events it became young Lawrence’s. When it feel apart because
of old age, his father promised to buy him one of the finest new
accordions if he would stay on the farm and work off the price.
Thus Lawrence Welk did not leave North Dakota until
age 21, speaking not a word of English. Then he began to extend
his wedding circuit into other states.
Today, at 70, Lawrence Welk is a successful bandleader
and one of the wealthiest performers in show business.
Welk and his Champagne Music Makers will be in Wichita
at 8 p.m. March 3 for a concert in Henry Levitt Arena. Tickets
and reservations are available at Central Ticket Agency. Featured
will be the entire orchestra and 20 vocalists, dancers and soloists
in a 2 ½ hour variety show.
Unless He Can find someone to handle
his regular Saturday evening services at the college, Father Welk
won’t be able to attend his famous cousin’s concert.
But he has extended “good old North Dakota hospitality”
and has invited him to visit.
He’s never met Lawrence Welk, although he
has corresponded with him. “He asked me to let him know
when I was ordained, which I did. Although he could not attend,
he sent me a gift.”
Now at least Father Tom Welk may have a chance to
meet his effervescent relative.