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Ken Weldon of Montauk: Softball star made friends with ease

Ken Weldon was a dedicated ballplayer and coach.

Ken Weldon was a dedicated ballplayer and coach. Credit: Melissa Weldon-Wallace

The story of Ken and Loretta Weldon is one she calls a classic: She was the bridesmaid, he was the usher. It was 1958 and he was fresh out of college; she had graduated high school the year prior.

He had a crew cut and wore dress shirts, not T-shirts — a habit formed throughout his Catholic school upbringing — and khaki pants.

"I thought he was the handsomest man," Loretta said wistfully.

Their courtship was innocent and straightforward. There were bowling and dinner dates, sit-downs on couches with family. They married in 1962.

At 5-foot-9, Ken stood a foot taller than Loretta.

"But he never made me feel shorter than him," she said. "I was always his equal."

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The pair would have two daughters and make their family home in a two-bedroom, two-bath cottage in Montauk. Summers were characterized by baseball and softball, cookouts at the house, sitting on the lawn. Ken would angle speakers out the window and play music.

He would live with Loretta in that house until the symptoms of his Alzheimer's made necessary a move to the Westhampton Care Center. In April 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Ken tested positive for the novel coronavirus. He died that month at age 82.

Until pandemic-related precautions restricted visitors in March, Loretta would visit Ken daily. Often, she would push his wheelchair around as he raised his right arm to say hello — always first — to passersby.

"Ken might have forgotten my name at the end, but he knew that I was somebody that he didn’t have to be afraid of," she said. "He knew the sound of my voice."

He knew his children and the Sunday songs sung in Latin. He knew when to stand and kneel in a church service, and when it was time for Communion. And he knew, still, the words that reassured Loretta.

"Maybe sometimes it was only a whisper, but he said it, ‘I love you,’" she recalled.

Born in Brooklyn, Ken was a lifelong music lover and longtime baseball player and coach. He started out as shortstop, then became a second baseman, then pitcher. From the late 60s through the 2000s, he played in the Amagansett slow pitch softball league.

"He was pitching in his 70s to 20-year-old guys and they had a hard time hitting," said his daughter, Melissa Weldon-Wallace, of East Hampton.

As a coach, he combined his love for the game with his love for music. When he would corral the teenage boys on his Babe Ruth baseball team, picking them up to drive them to their games, he would play music of all genres to his captive audience, Loretta said.

"He insisted on sharing his love for music," she said. "He’d follow people around saying, ‘Listen to this, listen to this.’ You could be cooking supper, or holding a crying child, or trying to go the bathroom — ‘Listen to this, you’ll like this!’"

He did not play music himself, only listened, and he treated the waters surrounding Long Island with a similar respect. He could not swim, did not fish, but he admired the majesty of the ocean, his daughter said.

Upon moving to Montauk, Ken started his career working in real estate contracts for the Montauk Beach Co. He would become a salesperson and later transition to working for a wine distributor, selling to restaurants and wine shops on the East End. He loved wine the way he loved music, his family said.

Outgoing and curious, Ken was constantly making friends. He invited new connections by wearing school sweatshirts — often from the University of Dayton, his alma mater, in Ohio — in hopes that another alum might notice and comment on his choice of attire. He was last to leave any party.

The ability to make meaningful conversation was perhaps his superpower. He would connect even with his grandchildren’s friends, said his daughter Christine Weldon Indeglia.

"He would remember little tiny details about everybody’s life, and it was always that way with him," she said.

A graduate of St. Dominic High School in Oyster Bay, Ken "lived his religion," Loretta said, in that he treated people with kindness and openness.

"Even before we got married, Kenny was the most honest, fair person that I had ever met," she said, speculating that his fairness may have had roots in baseball. "He always knew the rules and followed the rules, and he did that in every aspect of his life."

Having given thought to what his funeral might be like someday, Ken made just one request. The song would be "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."

On the day Ken was buried, the hearse first pulled into the Amagansett softball field parking lot. Ken’s daughters each held up one of his jerseys, and his song request was honored.

More than 50 vehicles decked in red, white and blue lined up in the parking lot past centerfield. Some of the players were as old as Ken was; others were younger, his influence having spanned decades and generations.

The fleet of cars followed the hearse out to the Fort Hill Cemetery in Montauk and drove to the plot.

"They wanted to bring him home," Christine said. "And they did."

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