November 4, 1945 - February 25, 2022
Margrethe Ann Mason Welch, a resident of Marin since 1974, was born and raised in West Los Angeles in the hills above the UCLA campus, where she, her parents (Jane and Wes Mason), and her three siblings attended college. Graduating in 1967 with a degree in design, she worked in the fashion industry in Los Angeles and New York City. She later transferred her design skills to the transportation industry, where she worked with display, graphics, and advertising for the newly constructed Metro subway in Washington DC.
Ann was delighted when the company moved her to San Francisco in 1974, where she worked on graphics and advertising for BART. She ultimately started her own graphic design business, and later began an interior design business, which she named Welch Design after marrying Robert “Bob” Welch in 1987. Ann served clients in Marin and San Francisco from her office on Beach Road in Belvedere. Ann and Robert lived in Tiburon for many years. She spent her final years at Smith Ranch in San Rafael.
While she was a talented designer, Ann’s passion was sailing. Growing up in Los Angeles, she often visited the beaches in Santa Monica and spent summers on Balboa Island, where she loved to watch the sailboats. While working on the East Coast, her interest in sailing intensified with days spent on Chesapeake Bay. Ann chose Marin to be her Bay Area home because her younger brother, Terry, already lived there. He introduced Ann to the sail racing community. Ann was soon crewing on race boats and cruising up and down the California coast in an Erickson 36 that she co-owned.
Shortly after their marriage, Ann fostered Robert’s interest in sailing. They bought a Beneteau 34, named it “Starlight Express,” and joined the San Francisco Yacht Club. Foreign sailing adventures followed: the Turkish Coast, the west coast of Thailand, the Kingdom of Tonga, and a South Sea adventure sailing from Fiji to Vanuatu to Papua New Guinea.
More recently, Ann skippered a 42’ catamaran down the Croatian coast and co-skippered a 46’ catamaran that sailed the British Virgin Islands. Ann sat comfortably in the skipper role. An experienced male sailor said that Ann was as skilled as any skipper he knew and he trusted her completely at the helm. In 2012 Ann was honored for her contributions to the San Francisco Yacht Club as Yachtswoman of the Year. She served in many volunteer roles at the SFYC, including as president of the Women’s Auxiliary. She shared her passion for sailing with other women by mentoring them, offering her boat for outings on the water, and she promoted the idea of an all-women regatta, the Auxiliary Cup, which was established in 2015.
One of the first things Ann did when she arrived in Marin was to join the Christian Science church in Belvedere. Over the ensuing years, she was an active member, serving on the Executive Committee, as Reader, as consultant on various interior projects, and as a member of several committees.
Ann thought beauty mattered. Her designs — graphics, interior spaces, wall coverings, fabrics, clothes, jewelry, etc. — were how she expressed the divine. If a table could be set or fabric chosen or lighting accomplished in a way that could make one stop and admire, she thought it should be done so. If it could not, you were wrong, and Ann would find a way. One could say aesthetics were Ann’s second religion.
Ann appeared soft and perhaps slightly demure. Beneath her elegant, immaculately chosen clothes and quiet bearing was a woman of sturdy stuff. Sailing the open seas can be romantic, meditative, and transcendently beautiful, and yet, it can be equally terrifying and uncomfortable. Ann relished the former attributes, but she was fully up to facing the latter. Her last years were uncomfortable, at times painful and full of disappointments. She faced it all directly and unfalteringly.
Ann’s family was very important to her. She is survived by her sister, Dean Mason Porter, and her brother, Terry Mason (Stephanie), and many nieces and nephews. She is also survived by her stepchildren, James Welch and Catherine Welch. She was predeceased by her brother Lee Mason, her husband, Robert Welch, and her companion in the last years of her life, Jack Hetherington.
Those who would like to honor Ann are invited to send a donation in her name to the Belvedere Cove Foundation, which provides financial assistance for a variety of sailing-related activities in Northern California, P.O. Box 150180, San Rafael, CA 94915.
A celebration of Ann’s life will be held in July at the San Francisco Yacht Club.