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Barbara Welles, 83, farmer, chief of cloud-seeding agency

By Virginia Culver
Denver Post / October 4, 2011

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DENVER - Barbara Welles, former head of Colorado’s weather-modification programs, died Sept. 26. She was 83.

Ms. Welles, who grew up on an Iowa farm, managed the farm even after she moved to Denver, where she was involved in cloud seeding and Planned Parenthood.

Ms. Welles joined Colorado’s Department of Natural Resources, where she got into weather modification (cloud seeding), which was highly controversial in the 1970s.

“She was right in the middle of it,’’ said her former boss, Harris Sherman, head of the department at the time.

“She helped conduct the hearings and was very good at them - a straightforward person,’’ said Sherman, now undersecretary for natural resources and environment in the US Department of Agriculture.

When a permit was sought for cloud seeding, hearings had to be held, with some people “worrying that it would cause too much snow, leading to avalanches,’’ Sherman said.

Eventually, she was manager of the department’s Weather Modification Program.

But Ms. Welles had many interests. She was on the board of Planned Parenthood and of the St. Luke’s Community Foundation Board and ran for the state Senate in the 1980s.

She was on a panel that recommended people for judgeships in the 18th Judicial District.

All along, she continued to manage her family’s farm in Iowa.

“She loved the land’’ and could do everything needed on the farm, including driving tractors, said her daughter Holly Welles, of Princeton, N. J.

She also loved to backpack, cross-country ski, and ride horses.

“She was a big adventurer; she wore us out,’’ Holly Welles said.

Barbara Welles was a donor at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and “was up to speed on everything,’’ said George Sparks, president and chief executive of the museum.

Barbara Chrisman was born in Boston and was reared in Winnetka, Ill., and graduated from Wellesley College.

She married John G. Welles in 1951. He died in 2002.

In addition to her daughter Holly, she leaves two other daughters, Ginny Welles of Lincoln, Mass., and Debbie Welles of Denver; a son, Bart Welles of Ross, Calif.; and eight grandchildren.