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Monday, February 16, 1998

Community leader's secret life finally catches up with him

By PAULINE ARRILLAGA / Associated Press Writer

GALVESTON, Texas (AP) - At a tiny AM radio station on this island along the Gulf Coast, humanitarian awards cover the wall of general manager Tim Kingsbury's office.

"In recognition of deeds showing deep concern for others," reads one, hung proudly beside plaques from the Boy Scouts, United Way and the Young Men's Christian Association.

The awards pay tribute to a man who spent the last 15 years dedicating his life to his community.

But this wall of honor was built upon a wall of lies that has come crashing down upon the man known here as Tim Kingsbury.

Kingsbury, 50, a civic leader who served on the boards of the island's most prestigious organizations, is actually Patrick Welsh of Lancaster, Ohio, a felon who faked his suicide in 1983 and deserted his wife and two children.

His secret life was uncovered this month when Welsh was returned to Ohio to face charges of failing to provide financial support to his children.

As he awaits trial, the friends he deceived and the family he abandoned struggle to come to terms with an inconceivable past and an uncertain future.

"I feel for the Tim Kingsbury I know," said John Tindel, president of the Galveston Chamber of Commerce, on whose board Kingsbury sat. "I'm praying for him - and for Pat Welsh."

For Welsh's former wife, the relief of knowing her ex-husband is alive has been mixed with anger over his deception.

"The biggest burden I lived with for 15 years was that someone said he loved me so much that he killed himself for me," said Elizabeth Welsh, 49, of Newark, Ohio. "I was thrilled that he was alive. But exceptions have been made for Pat Welsh all his life. He has some very big debts to pay."

---

Jan. 21, 1983, was the day Pat Welsh became Tim Kingsbury. As Mrs. Welsh recalled, "It was a normal day."

That morning he kissed his wife, said goodbye to his sons, 10-year-old Ted and 8-year-old Chris, and headed to work at the Lancaster hospital, where he was employed in community relations.

Welsh promised to meet his wife later for dinner at her father's house. He never showed.

Several days later, Mrs. Welsh received a letter in which her husband said he planned to kill himself and had left because he didn't want his body found.

"He said he just couldn't face life knowing he had ruined so many people's lives," she recalled. "He said he would look down on the boys from heaven."

Mrs. Welsh believed her husband was despondent over his 1980 conviction for embezzling $23,000 from Ohio State University, where he worked as a fund-raiser. He still owed the university restitution when he disappeared.

Several weeks later, Mrs. Welsh received another letter that her husband said indicated he finally had found the courage " 'to kill the devil that was living in him.' "

Mrs. Welsh divorced her husband later that year. And in 1988, though she continued to hope that he might still be alive, she had him legally declared dead, entitling her sons to about $100,000 in Social Security and life insurance benefits.

As the Welsh family went on with life, Pat Welsh built a new one.

---

Tim Kingsbury arrived in Galveston on a bus and stayed because his money had run out, said Vandy Anderson, his friend and employer at KGBC-AM radio.

He lived off charity until landing a job as an assistant to the public relations director at the prestigious Galveston Historical Foundation. He soon was promoted to head of the department, and last year he was elected president of the foundation, a position he resigned following his Jan. 30 arrest.

In 1986, Kingsbury was named executive director of the Galveston Railroad Museum. That's where he met Anderson, who in 1995 hired him as general manager of KGBC.

Anderson said Kingsbury's life in Galveston was built around volunteerism. He worked with the Rotary Club, United Way, the Boy Scouts and the Chamber of Commerce.

"He really developed into a true community leader," said Anderson. "He was the kind of person who would work in these organizations, not just be a figurehead."

Kingsbury's personal life also blossomed. Ten years ago, he moved in with Anderson's sister, Ann Anderson, who declined to be interviewed.

For a decade, life was grand. Then in February 1996, Galveston County authorities, acting on a tip from a KGBC employee, searched Kingsbury's office at the radio station and found a fake Wisconsin birth certificate and forgery materials.

Kingsbury confessed, telling local authorities and both Ann and Vandy Anderson his story.

In December 1996, he pleaded guilty to forgery and was sentenced to probation under the condition that he surrender all legal documents bearing the name Tim Kingsbury and contact the Social Security Administration to clear up any earning discrepancies.

He did so, then went on with his life.

---

Mrs. Welsh didn't learn her ex-husband was alive until last year, when the Social Security Administration sent her a letter seeking repayment of the money her sons had received for Pat Welsh's death.

The "reason" box was marked: "Number holder not deceased."

Initially believing someone was using her dead husband's Social Security number, Mrs. Welsh enlisted the help of her local congressman's office, which learned the $10,000 restitution Pat Welsh owed Ohio State University was paid in June 1996.

Using the Internet, Mrs. Welsh tracked her ex-husband to Galveston, where she learned he had been living as community leader Tim Kingsbury. In November, she sent him an e-mail.

"I know. Call me to discuss this matter," the note read. It was signed "Peachie," Mrs. Welsh's nickname since childhood.

When there was no response, Mrs. Welsh called him at KGBC.

"He said I knew this day would probably come; I just never knew it would be you who would find me," she said.

Mrs. Welsh said she decided to press charges after learning her ex-husband sat on the board of a women's crisis center.

"That was my line in the sand," she said, "because he had abandoned his own children."

Welsh, who remains jailed in Ohio in lieu of $300,000 bond, now faces about 19 years in jail and thousands of dollars in fines, his lawyer said. He may also be forced to reimburse the federal government and his insurance company for the benefits paid to his sons.

Mrs. Welsh has talked with her former husband since his arrest. Her son, Chris, also has seen him, as have some of Pat Welsh's 10 brothers and sisters.

Welsh's brother, Tim Welsh of Lancaster, said the family is ready to welcome him back despite the years of lies and deception.

"We're just darn glad he's not dead," he said.

Mrs. Welsh said she also is willing to give Welsh the chance to build a relationship with his sons, now 23 and 25, although she views that as unlikely.

"I would be very surprised if he stayed," she said, adding, "I don't think Pat Welsh will ever be able to come to terms with who he is and make a life for himself until he can come to terms with the past."

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