Karen Summers Welsh & Angie Aimar

Orange You Glad We’re Friends

November 2021 Issue
PY KarenAngie
By Kelly Hunter  
Photography by Mike Force Photography

Growing up in Greenville, SC, just 30 minutes from the school, Angie Aimar knew that Clemson was the only college she wanted to go to. “If I hadn’t gotten in there, I would have gone to technical school instead,” she said. But, she did get in, and she started her computer science studies in 1980. Karen Summers Welsh went to high school in Spartanburg, SC, and she also only applied to Clemson. Her father was a Georgia Tech alum and would take her to the games. When she was in the tenth grade, she looked over at the Clemson student section at one of the games in Atlanta, and said, “They look like they’re having fun!” Decision made. She was also a freshman in 1980, majoring in horticulture.

They both played on the women’s rugby team and were followers of men’s rugby. Angie was a member of Gamma Sigma Sigma, and Karen joined Angel Flight, which was affiliated with the Air Force ROTC. Angie says, “We became instant friends, and by the time we graduated, we were best friends.”

“We roomed together our senior year, and we roomed together for a while in Atlanta after graduation,” said Karen. Both lived and worked in Atlanta until 1990, making getting together pretty easy, but even when Karen moved to St. Simons Island that year, distance didn’t get in their way. Karen started to explain, “For 13 years there was that window of time when we weren’t in the same city anymore, but we still—” Angie chimed in, “still remained really good friends, and I visited a lot.” Karen added, laughing, “I’d go to Atlanta, drop my daughter off at my dad’s, and go to Angie’s for a getaway. It’s one of those friendships that, if we didn’t see each other for three weeks, three months, or nine months, it picked right back up where it left off. It’s that kind of a connection.”

Karen raised her daughter, Rachel (now 26), as a single mom with a lot of help from friends like “Aunt Angie”. There were so many phone calls over the years, and this was before you could call long-distance for free. They would often talk for an hour after Rachel would go to bed. So, in 2003, when Angie was ready to start over and leave Atlanta, Coastal Georgia had some big draws: Karen, Rachel and the beach.

They have been through a lot together in their more than 40 years of friendship: births, deaths, weddings and more. Rachel was a junior bridesmaid in Angie’s wedding. Speaking of which, the story of how these women got together with their husbands has Clemson written all over it. Angie explained: “Right after I moved here, Karen and I were out at dinner, and we both got back to our houses, and we had messages from Wallace on our answering machines.” Wallace Johnson had played rugby with the girls at Clemson and had looked them up in the alumni directory and called them each to chat. Angie had dated him in college, and the two talked on the phone and decided to get together for a date. They dated long distance for three years, but then Wallace moved to Brunswick, and they got married once his daughters graduated high school.

The Clemson Alumni Directory’s matchmaking skills don’t end there! Prompted by Wallace and Angie’s reconnection, Karen decided to get out the directory and write some letters to college friends to try to get back in touch. One of those letters was to another rugby teammate, Terry Welsh. A few years later, Karen got a phone call from Terry’s husband Todd, who had also played rugby and been in their same friend group. He had come across Karen’s letter when sorting through Terry’s things and had called to let Karen know that Terry had passed away. Todd lived in Columbia, SC, and he and Karen corresponded for several years via email and phone calls. They were married in 2018 and now live on St. Simons Island…and he still has that letter.

Angie and Karen have been there for each other in times of need. They have celebrated together during the good times. The connection they made that first year at Clemson has grown into a lifelong bond they treasure.

Up Close:

Furry Fan:
Angie and Wallace named their dog Clem…want to guess why?

Faithful Flashback:
The first time Karen brought Todd to St. Simons Presbyterian Church, where they would later be married, he said, “I’ve been here before.” He had gone to his cousin’s wedding there when he was a boy. He had visited his aunt and uncle on the island when he was young.

Bonus Kids:
Angie has two stepdaughters and one grandbaby with Wallace, and Karen gained twin stepsons when she married Todd.

Boss Babes:
Karen started Coastal Bloomers Landscaping Company in 1998, which she stays busy with today. Angie is the incoming president of the Golden Isles Association of Realtors and was recently named Realtor of the Year.

Dancing With The Stars: Karen: “Angie and I were in the mom dance recital at Southern Strut on the Glynn Academy stage.” Angie: “It was a hip-hop routine, and we weren’t quite 50 yet, but we were getting there.”

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Kelly Hunter
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