Double tragedy

Drowning site for popular coach, wife, had been a ‘happy’ destination

The Farragut High School coaching-teaching fraternity is dealing with a double tragedy — as word began spreading around FHS and in Town Tuesday morning, Aug. 8 — after news of the sudden deaths of Admirals Sports Hall of Fame coach Lendon Welch, 84, and wife, Charlotte, 83.

The Welch couple drowned after fishing in Center Hill Lake in DeKalb County Monday afternoon, Aug. 7. According to a 9-1-1 dispatcher in DeKalb County, “It’s public knowledge that two people drowned yesterday.”

An accident reportedly happened involving the couple’s boat and car.

Mimi Burns, with Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, said Tennessee Highway Patrol “has taken over the investigation because [the accident] involved a vehicle.”

No other details were available at deadline Tuesday afternoon.

The McRae family has lived next door to the Welches, along Pinedale Drive in Farragut, for 35 years.

“[Monday] night at 1:30 a.m. we got a call from the state police asking if we had any phone numbers for the children [LeAnn Mowery and Mark Lendon Welch],” George McRae said.

“They both really enjoyed going up and fishing [at Center Hill], that had been kind of a routine they had done for a number of years,” said Bill Parker, legendary FHS track and field coach and a close friend of the couple. “They were always happy about getting ready to go.

“I knew Lendon for about 42 years, and he was a super guy,” Parker added. “He trained a lot of people on the right way to live. And he took care of folks. He had the biggest heart.”

A social studies teacher for about 40 years at FHS who coached from 1958 to 1993, Lendon “took a real interest in students,” Parker said.

“As well as Charlotte,” Parker added about the retired teacher at Blue Grass and Gibbs elementary schools. “She was our daughter’s teacher in [Blue Grass] Elementary School.”

“She loved the children in her classroom,” Sandy McRae said about Charlotte. “She would do anything for them.”

Fred Nidifer, former Blue Grass principal, said Charlotte “was well known and very well respected in the Blue Grass community.”

Rosa Davis, another neighbor, had been friends with Charlotte for about 35 years. “She was a good friend and neighbor,” Davis said. “They were good neighbors to a lot people.”

Professionally, Parker said, “Lendon was probably the biggest influence on the direction of my life,” which involved Lendon’s role in hiring Parker, a multiple state champion coach, to teach and coach at FHS in 1976.

For several years dating back to the late 1950s and early 1960s, Lendon served as the lone assistant coach for FHS Admirals football. He also coached track and field, baseball and basketball.

Moreover, “He started the track program here,” Donald Dodgen, FHS athletic director, said. “He was such a gentleman and great person to be around. He was an outstanding teacher and coach here.”

The Kingston Pike entrance to FHS is named in coach Welch’s honor, “Lendon Welch Way.” He was inducted into the inaugural FHS Sports Hall of Fame class, which was the Class of 2013.

“I think he was a favorite of everybody around here,” said Lynn Sexton, former varsity basketball head coach at FHS [1961-1991] and teacher. “He was so genuine.”