Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Joseph Finch Weldy: Shot Dead...Then Memorialized

The name Joseph Finch Weldy might not today be a Shoals household word, but when he died in 1980 he was one of Russellville’s most prominent physicians. Weldy claimed Laurel, Mississippi, home when he received a bachelor’s degree from Ole Miss in 1958. By 1965, Weldy had been licensed to practice medicine in Alabama.

By all accounts, Weldy was a more than competent doctor/surgeon, but not a popular one. According to co-workers, the beak-nosed Russellville surgeon was so pale and thin that he was reminiscent of a vampire. He also had a quick temper that failed to endear him to others in the Russellville medical community.

Weldy lived with his wife Nona in a home in the Summit area of Russellville where they raised their sons. On December 3, 1980, Nona shot her 42 year-old husband dead.

There were claims of abuse of various natures, and Nona’s friends at the First Baptist Church stuck by her. Joseph Finch Weldy had never attended the large church, a rarity for a man in his position in that time frame.

No charges were ever brought against Nona Weldy, and Joseph Weldy was buried in Lake Park Cemetery in his hometown of Laurel. Today, his parents and other close relatives lie in rest nearby.

Yet the closure of the investigation of Dr. Weldy’s shooting death wasn’t the end of his story. Almost exactly 12 years later, Nona Weldy made sure that her husband, for whom she must have retained a modicum of affection, was remembered by his adopted community.

On December 4, 1992, Nona Weldy donated the initial money to found the Joseph F. Weldy Home for Children. The small home located in Winfield, Alabama, houses girls who are in urgent need of accommodations due to being orphaned or abandoned in Franklin, Winston, Marion, and Fayette Counties.

From its website: The Weldy Home is a girls group home which provides shelter from "stormy" situations to girls ages six years old to eighteen years old. Girls are placed by local Department of Human Resources who have been abused, neglected, and/or abandoned. The Weldy Home promotes emotional, physical, cognitive, social, and spiritual development to enhance a child and youth's opportunity to succeed in life beyond the Weldy Home.

The Weldy Home currently houses seven young girls; it’s also supported by donations from both individuals and corporations. Two of the Weldy Home’s primary supporters are Wells Fargo Bank and Alabama Power Company.

Nona Weldy eventually moved from the Franklin County area. For some time, she kept in contact with the administrators of the Weldy Home she helped found, but it’s reportedly been several years since she’s visited the memorial she built for her late husband.

Besides her donations to the girls’ home, Nona Weldy was also a benefactor of Safeplace…