She was devoted to her late husband, three sons, four grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and countless friends. As a minister’s wife, her life revolved around family and church. She was perfectly suited to this role, as she loved singing or accompanying sacred music; whether it was Handel’s Messiah or “The Old Rugged Cross” hardly mattered. Her favorite book was the Bible, which she read daily, but she also enjoyed the crime novels of P.D. James, biographies and classics; mere days before her death, she polished off Middlemarch. She liked to cook big, generous meals for her family, even after declining health kept her from enjoying them. She grew up, and thrived, in the Southern Baptist church. Born in Johnson City, Tennessee, and raised in nearby Elizabethton, she was the first of five children of Rev. Houston and Ruth (Greene) Blevins. Being the first, she always felt comfortable in a leadership role. One of the happiest times of her life was when she led a youth choir as a teenager; she would continue to lead choirs throughout her career as a music teacher at all levels. She took special pride in the fact that she worked her way to degrees from Mars Hill College, East Tennessee State University and Southwestern Theological Seminary (Master’s Degree in Religious Education). Much later in life, looking for a new challenge, she earned a Master’s Degree in Music Education from the University of South Carolina. It was at seminary where she met her husband, Thomas, attracted by both his big, bony hands and their mutual interests, which continued through 47 years of marriage. Tom and Audrey were partners in ministry, but she also maintained her own career in education. Their family grew through pastoral residences in Savannah, Georgia; Chicago, and throughout Florida. After settling in South Carolina, first in Mullins and then in Columbia, they remained active in church and missionary work. They served together as interim missionaries in Hamburg and Augsburg, Germany; Audrey herself took on evangelical missions to Costa Rica, Mexico and Taiwan. She spent many years with God’s Storehouse, which distributes food and clothing to the disadvantaged. She was, always, independent to a fault, even as she was besieged over the past decade by multiple medical issues. Nine decades in, she was no more inclined to give up living than she was to give up her keys – which are still in her purse. She lived her life with confidence – in herself, her family, her beliefs, and her salvation.
She is survived by her three children, Thomas B. (Robin) Welch, Rodney (Diane) Welch and Kevin B. Welch; four grandchildren, Rachel Welch, Katie (Travis) Welch, Robert (Laura) Welch and Caroline Welch; two great grandchildren, Lilly and Ava Ruth; sisters Mildred Rash, Joyce Campbell and Joan Campbell, and many nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents, husband, and her brother, Wayne Blevins. Her family, church friends, and neighbors will always remember her kindness, love, devotion, and toughness; her charitable work and her meticulous attention to obligations both public and private.
Funeral services will be held on Saturday, February 17, 2018, at Spring Valley Baptist Church, 91 Polo Road, Columbia, with Dr. Robert Winburn officiating. The family will receive guests in the church’s lower atrium at 10 a.m., with funeral in the main sanctuary to follow at 11 a.m. Graveside services will follow at Riverside Cemetery in Nichols, SC, at 4 p.m. Shives Funeral Home, Trenholm Road Chapel, is assisting the family.
The Welch family extends their deepest gratitude to first-class caregivers, Beverly Shiver and Christine Young; Dr. Steven Minter and Philip Trevaphan and the staff at South Carolina Oncology Associates; the loving encouragement of friends Sukari Saloné, Anice Bell, Buddy and Polly Lucas, and the ladies of the Prayer and Praise Sunday School Class. In addition to flowers, memorials may be given to God’s Storehouse and Gideons International.