Born in Miami’s Overtown to Bahamian parents Welters grew up during the years of racial segregation by custom and law. After graduating from Booker T. Washington Jr./Sr. High School in 1939, she earned an undergraduate degree in Business Education at Florida A&M in 1943 and a master’s degree in education at Columbia University in New York in 1962. An educator for 40 years she began as a school secretary, became a teacher, and retired as an assistant principal.
She lived to see customs and laws change against black people change. One of the greatest joys she expressed was “living long enough to see the first black president of the United States, Barack Obama, and the first black priest at Holy Redeemer, the Rev. Alexander Ekuchukwon. Upon his arrival to Holy Redeemer Church, Welters was one of the first parishioners Ekuchukwon visited. He was impressed with her alertness. She participated in the service, sang hymns and enjoyed the food cooked by Lady Bernadette.
Not one to seek honor or recognition for herself, Welters readily celebrated the success of others with a phone call and a card. Her deeds were recognized by the community including a 2006 Miami-Dade County Woman of Impact, a Miami-Dade Branch NAACP Leroy Thompson Pioneer Award, and the 2007 Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Citizen of the Year Award. In 2009-2010 she was an honoree in the AT&T Community NETwork calendar.
Gwendolyn Welters’ life’s work and community service unfolded at the Wednesday evening Memorial Service. For two continuous hours, representatives of organizations detailed her participation, good deeds and read poems of tribute. Every seat was filled.
The next day, on Thursday, the procession entered the quiet capacity filled sanctuary with 350 people seated and others willing to stand. Reverent mourners in wheel chairs, with walking canes, able bodied youth, women and men as well as mothers with babies all came with heavy hearts remembering her life.
Two eulogies, one by the retired Rev. J. Kenneth Major of the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation and one by Holy Redeemer’s new priest, the Rev. Ekuchukwon expressed gratitude to a remarkable woman whose faith and service added value to the lives of many. This is her legacy.
Celebrating the life of Gwendolyn Heastie Welters is a devoted family including daughters, Martha A. Welters and Nina M. Welters; son Warren W. Welters III; daughter-in-law Shelain Welters; grandson Sean C. Person; goddaughter Venda Rei Harris Gibson; godsons Cyrus M. Jollivette, Joseph Poitier N. Patrick Range II; and a community of friends.