Vern and Clara Welker came from pioneer stock and made a life together in our beloved city. Coming from modest farm families and humble beginnings, both attended Nutana Collegiate in the 1920’s. They were married in 1933, while Vern worked for Caswell’s Menswear. In 1948, They bought Hearn’s Clothing Store beside the Capitol Theatre on 2nd Avenue and created Vern Welker Men’s Wear. Clara was very active in the operations of the business.
Vern and Clara were active members of the community, with Vern volunteering for the Kinsmen Club and Lions Clun, while Clara was active in the Chatelaine Club (affiliated with the YWCA). Both Vern and Clara loved to dance and were charter members of the Cotton Capers square dance club. In fact, Vern Welker Men’s Wear carried a large line of square dancing clothing.
Vern Welker Men’s Wear operated for 22 years and in 1970, Vern sold the business and retired. By then, Clara and Vern had become frequent travelers. They had already toured most of Western Canada and hot spots in the United States. In the winter months of their retirement they resided in San Diego with their friends while staying active with the Cotton Capers and playing golf.
Vern passed away in 1996, while Clara passed away in 2009 at the age of 97. They were married for 63 years. Vern and Clara were not widely known for philanthropy, though the did quietly support favourite charities, such as the Meewasin Valley Authority. the Saskatoon Community Foundation was both surprised and amazed by the generosity displayed by their $2.9 million bequest to the endowment fund. Their gift represents the largest single donation ever given to the Saskatoon Community Foundation to date. Their bequest creates the Vern and Clara Welker Fund. Annual disbursements from the fund will be shared equally to benefit five local charities: Habitat for Humanity; Ronald McDonald House; Saskatoon Community Clinic Foundation; St. Paul’s Hospital; and the YWCA. Annual disbursements will depend on investment returns, but the fund should provide approximately $20,000 for each charity every year. The fund starting disbursing to the charities in 2011.
The generosity of this gift and the unexpected manner in which it was left reveals the underlying humanitarian thread that stitches the social fabric of our community together. The Saskatoon Community Foundation is honoured that the Welkers recognized our organization’s role in building a strong community.