Welcomed to town 44 years ago by one of Nelson’s most well known residents, Edna Whiteley, Frances Welwood was destined to follow in her Welcome Wagon footsteps.
And now, Welwood is the last of the three Welcome Wagon’s hostesses leaving after remarkably long service. Lois Arnesen greeted newcomers for 21 years before retiring and Whiteley did it for 44 years. Welwood is moving on after 28 years.
“I simply enjoyed doing it, meeting the people and spreading the word about Nelson and what a great place it is to live,” she said.
Whitely came to welcome Welwood within days of her arrival in town and they became fast friends. This was a common occurrence as Welwood went on to greet close to 3,000 people herself.
“I’ve met some of my best friends. Some of the friends I see most often are people I welcomed to their homes,” she said. Welwood kept an eye out for future ski buddies. “If I met somebody my age and found out they skied, I would say ‘come along with me’ and now there’s a whole group of us.”
Welwood has a keen memory for those she’s welcomed to Nelson keeping track of many. She loved connecting to such a variety of people and “remembers them all for different reasons.” It was a privilege to share with newcomers all the Nelson knowledge in a personal home setting, often surrounded by moving boxes and other assorted chaos.
“We could answer a lot of questions from when is the garbage coming to who is a great music teacher in town,” said Welwood.
A North Shore resident, Welwood greeted those living closest to her covering an area that included Fairview to Balfour, Harrop and Procter. She’s been known to drive up logging roads to greet folks new to the area.
“We rough it here a bit. And that makes it interesting. You dress accordingly and drive accordingly,” she said. “After a while you figure out, maybe I won’t go up that logging road in winter… So, I ask if they will drop by my house for a cup of tea.”
In addition to meeting slews of new people, Welwood enjoyed interacting with the 30 businesses the Welcome Wagon represented.
After 28 years, it was time for Welwood to move on. Welcome Wagon is modernizing using a new business model and she felt that someone new on the ground floor would serve the program well.
“And I’ve got other things I enjoy doing in my life too,” she said.
With more time in her future, Welwood plans to devote energy to her passion. She can often be found in Touchstones Nelson archives delving into the past. “I’ve always had a love of local history so this gives me more time for that,” she said.
Even as Welwood leaves Welcome Wagon, she plans to always keep her ears open for Nelson newcomers. It’s in her heart that everyone be graciously greeted to her community.
Two years ago, Emily Tucker (Hutt) came on board at Welcome Wagon. The young mother of three children found it a good fit with raising a family. Now, Tucker’s sister Megan Moore is replacing Welwood.
“I enjoy the personal interactions we get to have with newcomers and working with local businesses to help them connect,” said Tucker, an advocate of shopping local.
She feels Welcome Wagon contributes to the “small town feel” of the community. Greeting new born babies is also an aspect of the role Tucker loves.
“Both my sister and I are moms so we know those key things that are great to have when you first have a baby and how nice it is to have someone pop by your house for five minutes and bring you some gifts,” she said.
The sisters know they have big shoes to fill and Tucker appreciates the dedication of Whiteley, Arnesen and Welwood, making sure the program was a successful one. Arnesen gave her some advice when she started.
“Lois contacted me when I started two years ago. I was 28. She said ‘I was exactly your age when I started and look how long I lasted. Good luck getting out,’” remembered Tucker with a laugh.