Virgil Welna died last month. He was 89. For 50 years I depended on him for advice. I walked into Welna Hardware with a problem, and he knew that problem, and he had a solution for it. It wasn’t just the wise expertise, though. When he saw you, he smiled. He was happy to see you. You knew that the defeated feeling of not understanding how a piece of plumbing worked would soon be relieved and forgotten in his smile. He was filling you with faith and hope. Whatever it was, you could fix it. He was a great teacher, and, like a great teacher, he never made you aware of the lesson. You never felt you were being instructed. He always made you feel like this was something you knew all along.
I know he was thrilled that his sons followed him into the business. Perhaps there is no greater vindication and reward for a father than to see his sons look up to him as an example. Since 1954, for 64 years, Virgil Welna helped people in the poorest part of South Minneapolis fix things that needed to be fixed.
Thank you, old friend, you are remembered.