Hero Tree: Madison First Member Remembers Fallen Colleagues


Ellen Welch has placed more than 400 ornaments on the Hero Tree recognizing members of law enforcement who have died in the line of duty this year.

By Sybil Davidson

In her everyday life, Ellen Welch is a Crime Scene Specialist and Investigator in the Morgan County Sherriff's Office. She's an active member of Madison First UMC where, among other roles, she has served as a nursery volunteer for 17 years. (She volunteers at the 9 a.m. service and attends 11 a.m. worship, her pastor Rev. Grady Mosley points out.) 

During the holiday season, Ellen takes on another role, lifting up the memory of law enforcement and K9s from across the country who died in the line of duty in the previous year. 

2021 marks the third year she has set up a Hero Tree in her department's squad room. The idea came from something similar her mother saw online. 

"My mom, my niece, and I paint ornaments and I write each officer's name, death date, and agency on the ornament," said Ellen. The tree stays up in the squad room until late January so that those ornaments added during December have a full month on the tree. 

This year was particularly difficult as 2021 saw a large increase in law enforcement deaths in the line of duty—so many that Ellen had to get a bigger tree. In 2020 there were 305 law enforcement deaths, and so far in 2021 there have been 444 nationwide. Twenty-two police K9s have died in the line of duty this year. 

"At the end of January I take a picture of the tree and mail each ornament along with a picture to the agency and ask them to pass it along to the officer's family," Ellen explained. She often hears back with cards and words of appreciation. 

Ellen's colleagues at work and her church are very supportive of this outreach, as well. 

"She is dedicated and committed to her church, her family, and her community, with a genuine love that clearly comes from her deep love of God and Jesus Christ," said Rev. Mosley. "The fruit of the spirit is so evident in Ellen. She is a joy to be alongside in ministry."