Longtime Minnesota banker, former MBA president dies at 71

Longtime Minnesota community banker and past Minnesota Bankers Association leader Tom Welle died on Dec. 9 at the age of 71.

As reported by the Bemidji Pioneer, Welle retired as president of First National Bank Bemidji in 2020 after 35 years with the bank. He continued as chair of the board following his retirement. Tom’s grandfather, Nick Welle, and Rudy Welle acquired First National in 1945. They were followed in leading the bank by Tom’s uncles, Joe and Bob Welle, who in 1985 recruited Tom from his manager role at Bremer Bank in International Falls. Tom eventually led First National Bank Bemidji along with his cousins, Paul and Hugh Welle.  

Tom was president of the MBA from 2009-10. 

“He was a tough boss, but he was also a kind boss,” Sue Engel, a longtime colleague of Welle, told the Pioneer. “He challenged all of us to be our best. As humans, we make errors sometimes, and he would call us on it. But he also would be supportive of us to fix it and to make us all better.”