Grace Farish, Welcome Wagon hostess, dies at 92
By Dean Shipley
A woman who for many years extended a hand of welcome to London newcomers was laid to rest on Monday.
Grace Farish died Wednesday, Nov. 7 in Madison County Hospital.
She was 92.
A London native, Farish was often the first friendly face a newcomer to London might see. She was the Welcome Wagon “ambassador” who greeted families as they settled in Madison County. It was a role she faithfully fulfilled from 1961 through 1990.
Rather than a calling card, Farish often presented a wicker basket of flowers to new residents. Along with the basket bouquet, Farish would share information about the community and what they could expect to find in Madison County’s county seat.
Among the information she shared with new Londoners would be information which any family would need: whereabouts of physicians, the hospital, merchants including grocery, clothing, hair salons, insurance agents, banks, auto repair and so on. Some of the aforementioned might even donate an introductory gift of service as a gesture of good will. More than 100 sponsors would join Grace as she welcomed new families and new babies.
It was estimated when Grace stepped down from Welcome Wagon in 1990, she had made more than 8,000 visits.
One of those visits was to Bill Eberle. He said Farish came to him to invite him to be part of Welcome Wagon in 1973.
“She befriended me and we forged a good friendship through that,” Eberle said. He described her as very nice, pleasant and cheerful.
“She had a good life to the end,” he said.
Marilyn Ballenger recalls the date when she and her husband, Jim, moved into their new home on Arlington Avenue.
“January 20, 1957,” Ballenger recalled. She was eight months pregnant at the time with Jim II, who was born Feb. 21.
With a new house and new baby, the timing was perfect for a visit from Grace Farish, the Welcome Wagon hostess. Ballenger recalled the “signature” basket, which Farish presented to her.
“It had different specials in it from merchants,” Ballenger said.
She still resides in the same house, whose windows are washed by Grace’s son, Jeff.
Her other community involvement included the London Church of Christ in Christian Union, Rebekah Lodge, the London Garden Club and former Worthwhile Club.