Springfield, IL… On the evening of May 25th, during the final stretch of the 2023 spring legislative session, a resolution put forth by State Representative David Friess (R-Redbud) passed the Illinois House of Representatives. HJR 38 designates the new Chester Bridge over the Mississippi River along Illinois Route 150 and Missouri Route 51 as the “Don Welge Memorial Bridge.”
Don Welge was the President and CEO of the Gilster Mary-Lee Corp., a private label food manufacturer headquartered in Chester. Mr. Welge grew up in Chester and lived there for the majority of his life before passing away after contracting COVID-19 at the age of 84. He was a beloved member of the community, devoted to his family and church, and a staunch advocate of the Boy Scouts and local charities.
The current Chester Bridge is the only motor-traffic bridge spanning the Mississippi River between St. Louis and Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Construction began on the bridge in 1941 and was finished the following year. The bridge officially opened on August 23rd, 1942. Approximately 6,400 vehicles use this bridge every day.
A new Chester Bridge is being constructed and slated for completion in 2026. MoDOT approved this project in light of the fact that the old Chester Bridge was not created for newer vehicles and was in need of a modern replacement. The new Chester Bridge is being built with the history and significance of the original in mind.
“Don Welge was an incredible businessman and one of the most generous people you’d ever meet. He was a huge supporter of charities, including the Boy Scouts. He did so much good in Chester and the surrounding communities. I’m thrilled that we are able to honor his memory through this resolution,” Rep. Friess said.
Rep. Friess proudly serves the people of the 115th District of Illinois.