Law enforcement can be a stressful job — but it was one that friends and family of Bernard Welsh said the late 6-foot-6-inch career lawman handled with a quick sense of humor and charming manner.
Jim Abbott, a retired FBI agent and one of Welsh’s best friends for 47 years, remembered one particular stakeout with Welsh. Assigned to the bureau’s Organized Crime Division, they half-jokingly asked mob boss John Gotti and company if they could join the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club in Ozone Park — a longtime reputed hangout of the Gotti-run Gambino crime family.
They were turned down, Abbott said, but Welsh would end up getting the last laugh.
Not long afterward, while on a different stakeout at the Belmont Park racetrack in Elmont, Welsh had security remove Gotti from the premises due to laws prohibiting felons from being there. As an annoyed Gotti exchanged words with Welsh after, Abbott chuckled as he remembered his friend’s retort.
“Bernie turns to him and he says, ‘Well, John, if we can’t join your club, you can’t play at our track,’” said Abbott, a North Fork resident. “If I live to be 105, every time I think of him, I’ll have a big smile on my face.”
“People liked him. And he was extremely good in being able to harness that personality into something very positive,” said Ken Giel, Welsh’s friend and a former FBI agent, who added his longtime friend and mentor’s had a knack for using humor and charm with any source with whom he worked.
Welsh died Nov. 27, 2017, in his sleep of natural causes at his Williston Park home. He was 81.
Born April 1, 1936, in Brooklyn, Welsh graduated from St. Francis College there in 1958 and served in the Marine Corps as a lance corporal from 1957 to 1960. He later joined the NYPD, serving in the department’s Tactical Patrol Force unit.
In the FBI, which he joined in 1965 until retiring in 1986, Welsh worked on cases against members of the Profaci and Gallo crime families as well as legendary crime boss Joe Columbo. Welsh later served for seven years as commissioner of the Lloyd Harbor Police Department in Huntington.
In his spare time, Welsh loved to spend Sundays and holidays with his children and grandchildren, even coaching his children at Williston Park-based St. Aidan’s Church’s CYO basketball program.
“He was a legend to me,” said his son Patrick Welsh, of Glen Head, a retired NYPD officer. “He was bigger than life.”
Bernard Welsh is also survived by daughters Maureen Judge and Kathleen Caulson, both of Floral Park; sons Brian of Clemmons, North Carolina, Thomas, of Garden City, and Kevin, of Dix Hills; and 13 grandchildren. He was predeceased by his wife Patricia in 2014, and their daughter Margaret and son John.
A funeral Mass was said Dec. 1 at St. Aidan’s Church in Williston Park. Welsh was buried at Calverton National Cemetery.