In Louisiana, U.S., one family has been represented in Kiwanis for more than 8 decades.
By Julie Saetre
Hunter Wellan’s induction into the Kiwanis Club of Alexandria, Louisiana, U.S., in August 2023 marked a milestone: He represents the Wellan family’s fourth generation of Kiwanis membership.
Louis Wellan, Hunter’s great-grandfather, was a charter member when the club was founded in March 1937. An esteemed member of the Alexandria community, Louis founded and owned Wellan’s Department Store, at the time the largest department store in central Louisiana.
His success in business was matched by his commitment to philanthropy. When Louis learned that the Louisiana College basketball team had no way of traveling to away games, for example, he purchased a bus and had it delivered to the school.
He also was instrumental in funding the club’s Camp Kiwanis, a 150-acre plot of greenspace complete with a 22-acre lake. The camp provided a two-week summer getaway for underserved children for several decades. Today, the venue still hosts numerous youth groups — including Terrific Kids — and the Alexandria Kiwanis Club holds its annual crawfish boil/raffle fundraiser and a children’s fishing day on the property.
“Louis was one of the quiet donors,” says David Curry, a current member of the Kiwanis Club of Alexandria.
In fact, Louis contributed to many civic and religious organizations — and his generosity did not go unappreciated. Most of Alexandria’s stores and businesses, along with City Hall, closed on the day of his funeral in 1956.
“Town Talk,” the local Alexandria paper, reported that the crowds “may have been the largest number ever to attend a funeral here.”
A family tradition begins
For the Wellan family, a tradition of Kiwanis service had just begun. On the day of Hunter Wellan’s Kiwanis club induction, his grandfather, Myron, was presented with the Legion of Honor for his 65 years of service in the club. He joined the club in 1958 and went on to serve as a board member in 1961-62, 1981-82 and 1985-86.
Myron showed his commitment to service even before joining the Alexandria Kiwanis Club. As a teen, he was a member of the Bolton High School Key Club in Louisiana.
“I joined Kiwanis after LSU [Louisiana State University] and military service,” he says. “Joined the family management of Wellan’s Department Store and enjoyed years of active membership in the Alexandria Kiwanis Club.”
Myron’s son, named Louis after his grandfather, joined the Alexandria club in 1985. He served as a board member in 1994-95 and 1995-96 and as club secretary in 1996-97. He recalls especially enjoying attending the board night/club social with his dad. Louis has been an attorney practicing general law for over 30 years.
The next generation
Now Hunter is continuing the Kiwanis tradition. All together, in fact, the four Wellans represent 121 years of Kiwanis service.
Myron Wellan has no doubt the family history will remain strong in Hunter’s hands.
“He will be an asset — Louis will see to that,” Myron says. “It’s unfortunate that my father didn’t live to see Louis and Hunter grow up to be such fine men and Kiwanians.”