Staying busy feeds Navy veteran’s soul

Photos by Traci Westcott/ The Herald
Herb Welp of Jasper unloads food donated from local grocery stores to the Community Food Bank in Jasper on Wednesday. Welp volunteers his time every Monday, Wednesday and Friday to pick up food donations and bring them to the food bank.


A photograph of Herb Welp from his service in the Navy.

JASPER — When Herb Welp gazed out of a kitchen window in his Jasper home on Thursday morning, he spotted a chunky fox squirrel chowing down on an ear of corn, and a family of birds flocking into a hanging birdhouse. Welp, 87, loves wildlife.

From 1952 to 1956, the Dubois native was surrounded by nature unlike the kind found in Southwest Indiana. During those years, he worked aboard a floating, drydock aircraft carrier for the U.S. Navy. He was stationed in Guam for an 18-month stretch, and he also spent time in Japan and Korea.

Welp would fish in the Mariana trench — the deepest natural trench in the world — and pull out fish that had their eyes bent upward in search of faraway light. He’d drill holes in coconuts and add sugar to them to make tasty drinks, and eat bananas fresh off trees.

The Navy molded Welp into the man he is today. It taught him the importance of discipline and how to take orders.

Now, he dedicates much of his time to giving back. Welp volunteers at The Timbers of Jasper nursing home and Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center; picks up and delivers food to the Community Food Bank in Jasper; and helps with local blood drives. He is also a member of and serves on the color guards for Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 673 and American Legion Post 147.

“It’s good for you,” Herb said with a laugh when asked why he keeps his plate full.

He completed his basic training in San Diego, and went to damage control school at the now-defunct Naval Station Treasure Island. Then, he was out on the sea.

Herb Welp of Jasper looks at the food stocked at the Community Food Bank after delivering goods donated from local grocers.

Welp worked in the repair division on the ship, where he served as a firefighter and carpenter who fixed up the flight deck and anything made of wood on the 888-foot structure.

He was in touch with someone close on the draft board during the Korean War, and they warned him that his number would be called soon. If he didn’t want to join the U.S. Army, he should join the Navy, they told him.
And so he did.

He recalled that general quarters was called several times for him and his fellow sailors, meaning they were summoned to their battle stations. Planes often landed on the carrier that were “shot-up,” Welp recalled, and sometimes they would tear up the flight deck upon their arrival.

Quite a few military funerals took place aboard the ship, he said, and as a carpenter, he would build wooden caskets for his fallen brothers.

But by the time his fourth year was up, he wanted to come home and marry the love of his life, Ida Mae (Seifert). The two have been married for 62 years, and have eight children: Keith, Lawrence, Ronald, Bernard Scott, Joe, Mary Ann (Biessel), Bob and Michelle (Fulton).

“I have had a full life,” Welp said. “I’ll say that. And it’s not over with yet.”

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