Welklin will be missed

by Dan Welklin

Bob Welklin

My dad, Bob Welklin, 84, passed away this fall after several months battling pancreatic cancer. He was a respected member of the NASTI swim team and received Grin’s Life Member Emeritus award in 2006. He loved the NASTI team and looked forward to the Indiana USMS state meet each year from which he returned most times with a cache of gold hardware. His friends and family in Fort Wayne, Indiana were very familiar with our annual event as his stories of competing and socializing were told and retold with righteous pride.

If you make me a promise, I will tell you a short story about our last state meet he attended in April of 2009.

From left, Bob Welklin receives the Grin Life Emeritus award at the 2006 state meet in Avon. He's shown with his son, Dan Welklin.

You have to remember that this occurred before dad was diagnosed and you have to understand that he and I always pushed each other with candid and blunt humor. It was always good to have him put things in perspective for me and I tried my best to match his wit.

A few days before last year’s state meet, we spoke on the phone and he said he would arrive Friday night as planned, but would not commit to swimming. He did not feel up to par and said he would decide closer to swim time. Friday night came and he went to bed early, still undecided. He said he had a pain in his stomach and I teased him that it was simply the butterflies. “They always disappear on first contact with the water in the first event” I reminded him.

Saturday morning at 6 a.m. he still could not decide. I knew he did not want to miss the meet and I suggested he should just come along for the camaraderie and the NASTIs would understand. But this was not an option for the proud Marine of 83. So I knew it was my duty to give him one final prod, as I know he would have done for me. “Well let’s look at it this way” I preached. “There are two possibilities going on here; two extremes. If you simply have the butterflies, then, you know and I know… you gotta swim. On the other hand, let’s just be crazy and say you have some sort of disease or cancer and you don’t even know it. Well then…” and I paused to prolong the amusement I could see creeping onto his face, since he knew he was looking at and listening to a mirror image of himself, “…well then… in that case… you GOTTA swim!” Of course we both knew this was just a funny way to deal with the unknown and having thus put his vague adversity in perspective, he decided he would swim.

But Saturday was not the best for him and he sheepishly admitted to his teammates that he was not feeling like he wanted. He simply blamed it on the fact that he was 83 and apologized to several people that this was probably his last meet. But Sunday was a better day. He even touched out an Indy Swim Fit competitor in a very close race. You could see the adrenaline take over as he climbed out and proclaimed that he loved this meet. By the end of the day, he was apologizing for his attitude the day before and promised, “I’ll be back. I love this.”

A few weeks later he was diagnosed. Despite his ups and downs through the summer, as late as August he was still saying maybe he could make one more Masters meet. He always looked forward to it with a passion. Once a year he was enthusiastically welcomed and made part of a great team of athletes, but more important, a great group of people.

I have already thanked the NASTIs and I also want to thank all the other USMS participants in the Indiana state meet for their warm acceptance of all swimmers, of all ages. We really do have a good time, don’t we? And it’s easy for us to get together, socialize and understand each other, for we all have the same odd obsession. Even to the end, we all… Gotta swim.

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