A Talk With Mike Weltz: Tyler-Wetzel Renaissance Man
An Interview By John Yevuta
Our area is replete with talented people; turn a corner and the unassuming person you see might surprise you with what they’ve done and can do. Mike Weltz is such a person. At an early age, he discovered that he had an aptitude for art, a talent he finely honed in adulthood. Add to that an expertise in science and nature, an affinity for dancing, knowledge of taxidermy, a love of sports, and the ability to tell a good joke and you have a person who is always a welcome guest at any gathering.
In 2001 Mike retired from Bayer after 41 years of service. He now lives in Sistersville and maintains a camp at Arlington Cabins in Tyler County, which has played host to numerous bicycle riding events. His friendships are as wide-ranging as his hobbies and stretch across the Ohio Valley.
Who were your early artistic mentors?
My grandmother was supportive and bought me art supplies. My mother enjoyed drawing and painting.
What was it like growing up in Paden City?
Being surrounded by hills, the Ohio River and Middle Island Creek, this area instilled in me a profound interest, passion, and appreciation for nature and the outdoors. I have vivid memories of the woods, waters, and rural country settings near our family home that have never faded from my mind.
Tell us about your family.
I was the oldest of three. My brother, sister, and I grew up with two loving parents who didn’t always agree on how to get along and how to raise children. It could be tough to sort out as a young child, but I must say we had a lot of fun times along the way.
How do you remember your mom?
My mother was very nurturing and positive. She believed in people and was well-liked. She taught us that if you treat people fairly, then they will return the favor. She let me know that it is ok to be a nice guy. She loved holidays, especially Christmas, when she always made sure the three of us had nice gifts, a nicely decorated tree, and good food. She was a great cook, loved her family, loved playing games, and loved painting pictures. She was amazing!
And your dad.
My dad always said, “Mikey, never forget that self-preservation is the first law of nature. Be careful. Trust nobody. Be tough and honest. Do not show weakness. Get them before they get you. Life is not fair. Nice guys finish last.” You have to know that he was a World War II veteran of five major battle campaigns. He taught me how to hunt, fish, and play baseball. The man liked to drink beer, joke, and have fun. He called me Bomber after a fur-lined hat he brought back from Europe and that I wore to school until the age of seven or eight.
In the sixties, you got married and started your own family.
We had three children- Christy, Kim and David. The early years were perhaps the happiest and most fulfilling times of my life.
You took advantage of Paden City’s natural habitat at an early age.
By the age of seven or eight, I could readily identify most birds, fish, and wildlife native to the area. The inspiration they provided helped me to develop my knack for drawing and painting.
Because supervisors recognized your talent, you were able to meld your avocation and your vocation.
At age 17, I was hired as a laboratory analyst at Mobay Chemical Company. Bob Christman, who was the chief chemist, encouraged me to enroll in the chemical technology program at Marietta College. Because it was job-related, he told me that the company would pay for it. The next chief chemist, Ed Maliec, learned that I enjoyed art and pulled some strings to have the company pay for art classes. He asked me to utilize my art skills at work, creating illustrations and method diagrams. I attended art classes while working full-time shift work.
Who was a science mentor for you?
I was influenced by my Paden City High School Chemistry teacher, Owen McKay, who I later worked with in the lab. He alwaystold me that anything is possible as long as you work hard and maintain a vision of greatness. Every once in a whhile, I’ll remember what he said.
You have entered your oil paintings in competitions.
I realized that to keep my hand in it and improve my skills, I needed to enter some pieces in art shows and be critiqued by judges and other artists. Winning some blue ribbons and awards provided a catalyst to keep painting, working through personal problems and health issues.
Fishing is a favorite past-time.
Trips to Middle Island Creek stoked my interest in musky fishing. I’ve also traveled in other parts of West Virginia, Ohio, New York, and Canada where I’ve caught close to 300 muskies. Many have been over 50 inches with the largest at 53 inches. Almost all have been returned to the water unharmed. I also really enjoy bass fishing.
How did you become an accomplished taxidermist?
As a result of my interest in art, outdoors, and fishing, I became a self-taught taxidermist. I started entering 360-degree pedestal skin mounts and replicas in high-level shows. I am primarily a fish taxidermist with muskies being my favorite fish. I loved to catch–smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, crappie, and a few trout.
You’ve had some success.
The second time I entered a competition piece was a musky in 1992 and it won Best of Show Fish and West Virginia State Champion honors. I entered that same musky in the World Taxidermy Championships and won a first place blue ribbon in the Professional Division. I was awarded State Wall of Fame honors.
Wow! A World Champ. Are you still entering competitions?
I’ve limited competition pieces to half a dozen through the years and have been fortunate enough to win first place blue ribbons in state, international, and world championship competitions.
One of your early artistic mentors was your third and fourth grade teacher.
Josie Hartman encouraged me at an early age and that made a big difference. I have taught advanced fish painting seminars and been a competition judge. Like my early teacher, I try to be positive and encouraging.
You like to dance.
In recent years, I was introduced to dancing. I travel to Wheeling for a variety of classes: round dancing, ballroom, square dancing, and line dancing. All you need is a little bit of rhythm and a dance partner. I’ve been fortunate enough to have dance partners like Barbara and Nancy. Dancing is a great activity for couples and is particularly beneficial to seniors as it provides socialization, physical exercise, and keeps the brain engaged. Unfortunately, due to the Covid 19 pandemic, dancing has been put on hold for the time being.
Please share a few lessons you’ve learned along the way.
Failure happens frequently and success requires a lot of effort. I’ve had to realize that dwelling on regrets, guilt, and mistakes of the past will drag you down. You need not blame others when things go wrong. Stay away from people who harbor anger. Surround yourself with good people. Try to maintain your health and laugh as much as possible along the way.
Thank you. That might be the best advice I’ve ever heard.