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News & Views of Phillips Since 1976
Monday July 22nd 2024

Pat Welna’s Life Story

Pat Welna. Photo courtesy the Welna family.

Written by VIRGINIA (WELNA) MAGNER Edited by SUE WELNA

Born in Minneapolis, MN, in 1929, Pat Welna was raised as an only child. When she was seven, her parents divorced, although her father visited frequently. The family would go on outings to the MN State Fair, to the fireworks at Powderhorn Park and to family gravesites on Memorial Day. On the Fourth of July, Pat would have her one annual ice cream cone. During two Minneapolis Aquatennials, a teenaged Pat danced in a chorus line at the Orpheum Theater wearing long beautiful dresses and big fancy hats.
During the Depression, times were tough. Pat’s mother turned their small home into a boarding house with ten roomers. Pat slept on a ¾ cot in the living room with a female boarder and her mother slept nearby. The hook behind the dining room door was Pat’s clothes closet. Her mother also ran a wedding catering business out of their home.
Pat attended St Margaret’s High School. As a high school senior at her best friend’s party, she saw the man who would later become her husband, saying to herself,” I will marry that man or no man.” They became friends, and he called her every night for the next four years. After high school, Pat attended Minnesota School of Business College and then worked at the Boy Scouts Office for three years, loving every minute of it.


Immediately after his college graduation, Virg asked for Pat’s hand, and they were married two weeks later! They lived with Pat’s mother. Shortly after they married, Virg was drafted and they moved to Maryland where Pat worked a temporary secretarial job. On the day Virgil prepared to leave for overseas, they traveled to New York City. Virg was to check in at the base while Pat would take the train to the airport. Pat cried the entire way to the airport. On the plane prior to take-off, she heard the announcement, “Is there a Mrs. Welna on board?” As she stepped forward, she saw Virgil standing on the tarmac. He had arrived at the base early and with a few hours before he had to check in, he hitchhiked back across New York. They had dinner together and Pat took a later flight. She said, “I never cried again — for how many people had ever been so loved?” She returned to her mother’s home in Minneapolis.


When Virg returned, he partnered with his father in a hardware store business on Bloomington Avenue, a huge shift from his original plan of becoming a schoolteacher. Pat was now married to a business owner who would not have summers off! The money they had been carefully saving for a down payment on their own home became the down payment on the hardware store. For eleven years they continued to live with Pat’s mother. In 1964 they purchased their own home in South Minneapolis. Virgil worked long hours while Pat cared for their three children. She excelled at hospitality and there were often guests at their table. Later she worked alongside her husband at the family hardware store. She continued to come to work into her 90th year and enjoyed visiting with the customers, drinking coffee and passing out cookies!


Pat volunteered consistently. She worked with adults with intellectual disabilities. Every single day for several years, Pat visited her mother and her aunt in nursing homes. She was very involved in politics, actively supporting electoral candidates. One of her biggest commitments was supporting the establishment of Minneapolis Metro Light Rail Transportation. Because of her involvement, she was an honored rider on the inaugural Metro Transit train trip!


Pat loved to travel and was able to see the world with Virgil and her son Jim. Later, she traveled on her own with groups. She completed many courses at the University of St. Thomas as a part of their senior study program. Pat died on January 17, 2023. She was preceded in death by her husband Virgil and is survived by her three children, seven grandchildren and ten great grandchildren.

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