Thelma with Anne Welch and the two eldest Atwell boys
Thelma (with Anne Welch)
and the two eldest Atwell boys

Richard Raymond Welch

Lillie Pearl Wiley

Thelma Lucy (Welch) Atwell

Born:    21 Feb 1923   (17 1/2 miles west of) Campo, Baca County, Colorado
Died:    10 Apr 2005   Alpaugh, Tulare, California

Spouse:   Willis Allen Atwell   b. 22 Sep 1924   d. 5 Oct 1986
Married:   11 June 1946   Albuquerque, Bernalillo, New Mexico

Children of Thelma and Willis Atwell:
Living Son
Living Son
Living Daughter
Rose (1955-1955)
Living Son

A brief history of Thelma Lucy (Welch) Atwell

Thelma Lucy Welch was born to Lillie Pearl (Wiley) and Richard Raymond Welch on February 21, 1923 17 1/2 miles west of Campo in Baca County in southeastern Colorado. Thelma's father owned a sheep and cattle ranch, along with a few horses. She was the 2nd oldest child and the 2nd girl in the Welch family.

In the 1930 census, Thelma was listed as 7 years old and living with her parents and siblings in Carriso, Baca County, Colorado. Her father is listed as a "farmer" on a "General Farm".

All of the Welch children were expected to contribute to the survival of the family, which was a daily concern on the isolated ranch in southern Colorado. A great deal of the weight fell onto the older children, Thelma and Bessie.

Thelma's parents separated in her youth, and eventually Thelma left the ranch. Having learned to work hard as a youth, Thelma worked hard as a young woman, often picking in the fields.

In 1946, Thelma met and married Willis Allen Atwell in Albuquerque, Bernalillo County, New Mexico. Willis was born 22 September 1924 in Livingston, Kentucky to Liza Lowdusky (Harp) and Ulysses Grant Atwell. Married briefly before Thelma, Willis had a son from that marraige.

Willis who was known as Slim, Willie or to family as "Pappy", was a hard working man who specialized in farming. Up before sunup and working late into the evening, Slim provided for his family.

Once Slim was staying at a hotel that caught on fire. Running from the flames, Slim was on fire and someone grabbed him and helped him to extinguish the flames. It couldn't have been a closer life and death experience, and after a painful recuperation from his burns, he returned to the demanding hours of the farmer.

Thelma and Willis raised three sons and a daughter [all living], but lost their daughter Rose at birth. Their children all learned the meaning of a hard day's work.

The Atwell family lived on at least a couple of farms in the San Joaquin Valley, including French Camp, California. In addition to farming, they raised livestock to supplement their income and dinner table. Eventually, the Atwells settled in Alpaugh, California, a very small town in Tulare County.

Willis Allen Atwell died 5 Oct 1986 in Alpaugh and he is buried in District Cemetery.

Thelma lived for two decades following the death of her "Pappy" and often talked of how much she missed him. However, she enjoyed the fact that all of her children had settled into either Alpaugh or a closeby community. On April 10, 2005, Thelma also passed away in Alpaugh.

[Researcher Note: Visiting my Aunt Thelma and family was one of my greatest treats. It grieves me that I do not have the words to describe my joy at entering her door. They might not have had money for fancy fixins, but the smell of Aunt Thelma's beans simmering on the stove was a delight in itself. Uncle Slim was always a quiet man around us; however, forever etched in my memory is him walking in after a long, hot day in the fields. He would sit down with sweat dripping down around his neck, and dust covering his face until it was gray with the dirt he'd been toiling in. He'd take off his hat, and he would smile from ear to ear with his wife by his side.

Living in town, it was an adventure to go to the Atwell's who lived in the country. Playing with the baby pigs, collecting eggs, or swimming in the pig pond, while keeping an eye out for the mean old sow, were moments I wouldn't trade for a vacation anywhere in the world. With Aunt Thelma always up for some fun, I remember the anticipation of what new excitement awaited while visiting with the Atwells. I guess my favorite had to be looking at the stars through a coat sleeve. (Laugh... to a glass of water poured down the sleeve into one's face!)

I always knew I was welcome at Aunt Thelma's... and no matter how small the boo boo -- or how trite a hurt feeling -- Aunt Thelma had an ear to hear and a kind word of advice.

You are missed Aunt Thelma -- and you hold a place in my heart as a lady that I loved unconditionally -- and who loved me in return. Thank you for the strength you taught me with your persistence in the face of adversity.

-- Ellen Anne (Welch) Rowley    

Research References:

1- 1930 U.S. Federal Census -- Carriso, Baca, Colorado. Listed (Page 2 of 3) Richard Welch 35, Lillie Welch 25, Bessie Welch 8, Thelma Welch 7, Nellie Welch 5, Douglas Welch 2 1/12
Source Citation: Year: 1930; Census Place: Carriso, Baca, Colorado; Roll: 229; Page: 1B; Enumeration District: 7; Image: 851.0. Source Information: 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2002. Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1930. T626, 2,667 rolls.

2- U.S. Public Records Index
Name: Thelma L Atwell
Birth Date: Feb 1923
Address: Pob 351, Alpaugh, California 93201-0101 (1993)
[5588 Lake Rd, Alpaugh, California 93201-0601 (1978)]
[P O Bx #351, Alpaugh, California 93201]

Source Information: U.S. Public Records Index [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2009. Original data: Merlin Data Publishing Corporation, comp. Historical Residential White Page, Directory Assistance and Other Household Database Listings. Merlin Data Publishing Corporation, 215 South Complex Drive, Kalispell, MT 59901.

3- United States Obituary Collection
Name of Deceased: Thelma L. Atwell
Age at Death: 82
Death Date: 4 Oct 2005
Obituary Date: 14 Apr 2005
Newspaper Title: Tulare Advance Register
Newspaper Location: Tulare, CA, Us
Birth Date: abt 1923
Locations Mentioned in Obituary: Alpaugh

Source Citation: Newspaper: Tulare Advance Register; Publication Date: 14 Apr 2005; Publication Place: Tulare , CA , Us. Source Information: United States Obituary Collection [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2006. Original data: See newspaper information provided with each entry.

4- Social Security Death Index
Name: Thelma Atwell
SSN: 523-26-1846
Last Residence: 93201 Alpaugh, Tulare, California
Born: 21 Feb 1923
Last Benefit: 93201 Alpaugh, Tulare, California
Died: 10 Apr 2005
State (Year) SSN issued: Colorado (Before 1951)

Source Citation: Number: 523-26-1846;Issue State: Colorado;Issue Date: Before 1951. Source Information: Social Security Death Index [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2009. Original data: Social Security Administration. Social Security Death Index, Master File. Social Security Administration.