Vicky Welch with her goats at last year’s 4th of July arts festival in the Twisp park. File photo by Sue Misao
BY MARCY STAMPER
Vicky Welch was the kind of person whose route to India went via South America and Africa – by car.
Urged by friends to see South America before heading to India, Vicky drove out of Chicago the day after her final exams for a master’s degree in India studies, according to her husband, Ed. She planned to ship the car to Africa, do more exploring, and transport it again to India. “She had big ideas but ran out of money,” said Ed.
Her journey was also modified when she met Ed – who was finishing up a Peace Corps assignment – in Santiago, Chile, on March 21, 1970. Vicky and Ed spent the next 43 years together, raising two sons, innumerable goats and organic fruits and vegetables, until Vicky died last week at the age of 66.
From Chile, Vicky and Ed traveled together on their way back to the United States, including three months in a dugout canoe on a tributary of the Amazon in Bolivia, a tour of Guyana and islands in the Caribbean.
After three years at Mount Hood in Oregon, where Ed worked for the U.S. Forest Service and Vicky juggled odd jobs, they planned to check out Okanogan County, which they had heard was particularly beautiful. They were heading to Tonasket when they heard a radio report in Pateros about the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the North Cascades Highway. They rerouted to the Methow.
On that initial visit they found property up the Twisp River but didn’t buy it for some time. “It was not a practical purchase,” said Ed, but they were captivated by the splendor and the surrounding mountains, and by the amenities, including a barn and pasture for their goat, a housewarming gift from Vicky’s siblings.
Vicky loved goats and could never imagine being without them, said Ed. The animals regularly accompanied them on pack trips into the mountains.
Vicky completely embraced farming and the rural life, but she grew up in a Chicago suburb. Her love of learning was inspired in part by her grandmother, a scholar of Indian philosophy. Vicky remained interested in Indian philosophy and religion throughout her life.
On the Twisp River, Vicky and Ed started Sunny Pine Farm, where they grew vegetables, raspberries and lavender and raised dairy goats for cheese and yogurt. Through the farm, they have introduced many people to organic agriculture – and to the Methow. Many have made their home here after spending a few seasons living and working at the farm. “It was like a big, extended family,” said Ed.
Vicky and Ed returned to Patagonia in 1983, spending four years on a remote ranch in Argentina, raising food and tending flowers and trees. They returned to the Methow during the winters and came back for good in 1987 after Vicky became pregnant.
Their son Arthur was born in 1987. He died just before his 10th birthday. They adopted Gary, who now lives in California, when Arthur was 3.
Energized by politics
Vicky’s first foray into politics was in response to a proposed downhill ski resort in Mazama. “The beauty was here – she just felt it was sacred,” and safeguarding that beauty and the environment became a central focus for Vicky, said Ed.
Maggie Coon first met Vicky in conjunction with the ski resort, and they soon began working together to oppose the development. “Vicky loved going to meetings in Okanogan – it energized her big-time,” said Coon. “She found it intellectually stimulating and challenging.”
“There are very few people who spent as much time as Vicky reading documents and understanding how they would apply,” said Dave Schulz, who worked with Vicky during his decades as a planning commissioner and three terms as a county commissioner. Her analysis gave them a better understanding of the environmental and development issues, he said.
Vicky also liked going to Democratic Party meetings and was inspired by the passage of some very progressive resolutions, said Ed. “Vicky was never discouraged. I think she was having a good time,” he said. “Vicky mostly did things she enjoyed doing.”
Although Vicky was known for being confident and outspoken, as a girl she was timid, according to Ed. Then in her teens, Vicky did an ascent of Mount Rainier. “She said it was the hardest thing she’d ever done, and it changed her whole life and attitude,” said Ed.
Vicky brought a sense of perseverance to everything she did. Ed recalled countless “creative” hikes Vicky mapped out, with overland stretches between trails. “It was very challenging and fun,” said Ed. “She was just a rugged, tough person.”
Vicky’s dedication and insights are going to be missed – especially in the Methow Valley – because she understood complex issues so well, said Schulz, who talked to her less than a week before she died. “You could always count on Vicky – rain, snow or shine, she’d always be there,” he said.
Along with her quest for new experiences and places, Vicky had a deep sense of tradition, said Coon. She hosted an annual Christmas Eve dinner, complete with her finest china, and always wore an elegant outfit and glitzy, bauble earrings.
“The thing about Vicky was she was real direct and straightforward – and sometimes really blunt – but in every aspect, her heart was open and full of love,” said Ed.