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Valpo Remembers

Willard “Bill” F. Wellman

Fall 2022

Bill Wellman passed away on June 2, 2022. He was born to Leona Schultz and Guy Lionel Wellman in 1924 in LaPorte, Indiana. His family lived in Kouts and Lowell before settling in Valparaiso.

Bill was a WWII Staff Sergeant in the Marine Corps. After enlisting at 17, Bill fought in the Pacific campaign from 1943–1945. He developed a unique respect for the patriotic song “Taps” during his time on burial duty aboard a hospital ship.

After returning home, Bill attended Valparaiso University and Indiana University where he lettered in baseball, a lifelong love. He met his wife, Joanne Elizabeth Larsch, and they married in November 1948.

From 1948–1958, Bill helped his father run a bar called The Corral in downtown Valparaiso. In 1958, he decided to “go big” and his family opened Wellman’s on U.S. 30. It included a restaurant, banquet rooms, bowling lanes, and live entertainment. In 1967, Bill opened the Bridge VU Dinner Theater. The theater hosted Valparaiso University productions and drama students, along with larger named acts including Phyllis Diller, Dolly Parton, the Oak Ridge Boys, and Duke Ellington. The family added the Holiday Inn to the property in 1968.

In 1974, Bill opened the Court Restaurant located across from the county courthouse. In 1976, in collaboration with Dean White of Whiteco Industries Inc., he helped design and open the Holiday Star Theater in Merrillville to increase tourism to Northwest Indiana. In 2017, he received an honorary Doctor of Commercial Service from Valparaiso University.

Bill’s other connection to the University spans back to the Student Bridge. He purchased the Student Bridge in 1968, and reassembled it near his restaurant on U.S. 30 in front of the Bridge VU Theater. In 2005, a group of engineers brought the bridge back to campus and reassembled it for more generations of Valpo grads to enjoy. The bridge will live on for years in the minds and hearts of thousands of Valpo students — current and future.

Bill was preceded in death by his first wife, Liz, and his brother, Guy Wellman.

Bill is survived by his wife, Roberta Norwich; children, Dawn ’71, ’76 J.D. (Fred), Scott (Kim Doane), and Kim; grandchildren, Guy (Lisa) and Drew, Cory (Candice) and Kyle Kinney, and Erin (Jarrett).

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