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Community mourns Welsh's passing

Thomson civic leaders today mourned Luther Welsh, 79, the legendary Bulldogs football coach who brought three state titles to Thomson High School.

"Our community has lost a great leader for our young people and a good example for the rest of us," Mayor Kenneth Usry said when told of Welsh's death. "He was truly a dedicated educator."

"His work habits were absolutely super," Usry said, "He was absolutely a great leader and was admired by the young people of our community and will be missed very much."

Banker and athletic booster Ralph Starling said he has called Welsh a friend since the coach's first stint in Thomson in 1984. He said while Welsh was working elsewhere, they talked on a weekly basis.

Of course Starling will be remembered for his coaching, Starling said. His voice trailed. "I'm gonna remember him as one of the most wonderful ...

Just a week ago, Starling shared in the grief for the coach's wife, Anne, 69.

"He's in heaven with Miss Anne now," Starling said. "And the lives that he touched! He did was God wanted him to do on this earth. God sent him here to make a difference in young people's lives and he did it well."

"There'll be a void in my heart for the rest of my life," Starling said.

John Barnett, a family friend and a coaching assistant to Welsh for 19 years, confirmed the report of Welsh's death in University Hospital in Augusta. Barnett said he was making himself available to assist the family.

Welsh retired after the 2010 season. The couple had planned to move to South Carolina, but delayed the move because of health problems.

Web posted on Thursday, July 14, 2011

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