Like the character Lumiere he played in “Beauty and the Beast,” Brian Welch’s bright light illuminated the stage, from God to dog, playing memorable roles ranging from Jesus in “Jesus Christ Superstar” to Snoopy in “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.”
Welch, 47, who died March 28, was born and raised in Monroe, lived in Dearborn, and for many years taught autistic children in the Lincoln Park Public Schools.
He was best known, though, for his theatrical pursuits, whether onstage or directing.
When his Type 1 diabetes sent him into kidney failure five years ago, the theater community rallied behind him, with theater friend Michele Devins spearheading a search, and fellow thespian Erik Paschke donating a kidney, which provided Welch with extra years to pursue his theatrical passion.
Devins encouraged people to remember Welch and speak of him, so his memory will remain in the hearts of his beloved theatre community.
“He was my best friend for 20 years,” she said. “His passing has left the biggest hole in my heart, but there is no more suffering, no more worry and no more pain.”
Fellow thespian Molly Zaleski praised him as both a teacher and as a friend.
Leo McMaster, a fellow teacher and thespian, who acted with Welch in “The Full Monty,” said it was a gut punch to learn of Welch’s passing.
“He was tremendously talented, and was a devoted Lincoln Park teacher, where he worked with students with autism for many years,” he said.
Branden Omoregie, who shared a love of theater with Welch, as well as health challenges, praised Welch for his resilience and persistence in the face of his Type 1 diabetes.
“I wish I had a heart like yours, where you always tried new things to better your life,” he said. “Even in the midst of complications, you were always resilient.”
Actress Ashley Blevins said Welch was in the first community theater show she saw, and she was immediately impressed by his voice.
“I am so thankful I got to know him and work with him on several shows, and learn from this phenomenal actor and comedy king,” she said. “He made it his personal mission to try to make me break during the tango class scene in ‘The Full Monty,’ and then would succeed in making me sob a few scenes later.”
Blevins also performed in “Jesus Christ Superstar” with Welch, who played the lead.
“He was such an incredible person to work with and hang out with backstage,” she said. “He will be so incredibly missed.”
Thespian Ashley Gatesy, who did “Nunsense” with Welch, said that when he got an unrelated black eye during the run of rehearsals, he jokingly told people that five nuns beat him up.
Actor Tony Primeau, who played the apostle Peter to Welch’s Jesus in “Superstar” said it was a privilege to work along side him. The two also performed together in “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Full Monty” and many other shows.
“Brian was always amazing to work with, down-to-earth and kind,” he said. “He will be truly missed.”
Thespian Lara Keathley said Welch was her leading man in a production of “Footloose.”
“I don’t know what else can happen this year to prove that life is so short and that every moment counts,” she said. “He was far too young to leave this world, and I will cherish our memories forever.”
Actress Jaclyn Jakimowski, who shared the stage with Welch during “Beauty and the Beast,” said it was fitting he played Lumiere.
“You were very much a bright light in so many lives,” she said. “Kind and gentle, funny and sweet, and you will be missed.”
Thespian Sara Williams said her first theater memories were playing opposite his Snoopy in “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown,” and said she will always remember his kindness and sense of humor.
Actress Carolyn Scherer, who shared the dance floor with Welch in shows, said she was saddened by Welch’s death.
“Brian made everyone smile,” she said. “Such an amazing person is gone too early.”
Thespian Sydnee Rose Corbin said Welch was a bright light in a dark world.
“I am forever grateful I was lucky enough to know you,” she said. “I will miss you and your amazing laugh so much. Save a seat for me on the casting couch.”
A funeral service was held April 2 at the Michigan Memorial Funeral Home Chapel in Flat Rock, where he was employed.
Memorial contributions may be made to Donate Life Coalition of Michigan or the American Diabetes Association.