YOLO COUNTY NEWS

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The Marya Welch I remember

In her memory

What: UC Davis Symphony Orchestra, University Chorus and Alumni Chorus, conducted by D. Kern Holoman, will honor the memory of Marya Welch, a prominent figure at UCD for many years

When: 7 p.m. Sunday

Where: Jackson Hall, Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts

Tickets: $12-$17 general, $8 students; www.mondaviarts.org, 530-754-2787

By Wrye Sententia

Marya Welch: a strong name and a strong woman. A strong woman doesn’t ask for permission, she just does. She does not what she wants, but what she believes to be right. She may not always be right, but she has integrity and grit.

Marya had lots of beliefs, lots of integrity and a ton of grit.

She believed in hard work and applied effort and lived that way, on our block, from what I’d been told, for many years. When my son, the very young editor-in-chief of “The Weekly Block,” met his second-grader goal of “publishing 52 issues,” Marya came to congratulate him on his yearlong accomplishment at his “retirement” cupcake party.

But earlier that year, she had also crossed the street with a determined air to — as she put it — “take back her dollar” when my son forgot to publish an ad she had paid for, for that week’s paper — an ad about her cat.

Marya believed in opportunities — equal opportunities for female athletes, even very young ones. When she spied me raising my 2-year-old daughter, her arms extended, high above my head, reaching to hang from our magnolia tree, she came out and crossed the street to emphatically compliment me on “raising her right.”

When we first moved into our house, Marya showed up, our first neighborhood visitor, in her bright purple blazer with her calling card in hand. I was intrigued at the elegant script, its simplicity and by the wide, bold sweeping gestures Marya Welch made with her hands.

Although Marya and I didn’t always see eye-to-eye, like when she asked for my son’s dollar back because he had messed up her ad about her cat in his paper, I always respected her fierce independence of mind, her willingness to say what she meant and mean what she said, and her conviction to do — and to reward — what she saw fit.

So, you may have guessed, Marya was thrifty with a dollar. She lived a simple life, in spite of her means — or perhaps because of them. She had absolutely nothing to prove by an ostentatious show of wealth, in the way that life in America prods those of us weaker than she, to the consumerism of want, rather than need.

When I changed my biking route to campus and spied the “Marya Welch: Tennis Courts” and learned of her name above another campus building, I smiled, marveling at the scope of her living public legacy, and recognizing them for what they were: clear markers of her beliefs, her integrity, her grit.

Ironically, I didn’t know of half the accomplishments Marya had done until after she was gone, and it was too late to ask her about them then. I do know that I miss her and am thankful to have been her neighbor.

Marya Welch forged her values outside of the mainstream, even as she swam in it; that’s what was so refreshing about her. My hope is that, even as the university honors her memory in name, that the town will preserve a tribute to the complexity of her person. For me, and for my family, this is the Marya Welch who we will remember: the strong name and the stronger woman behind it.

— Wrye Sententia is a Davis resident.

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