Gilster Mary-Lee CEO Dies of COVID-19

April 21, 2020
The CEO of Gilster Mary-Lee has become the first chief executive of a Food Processing Top 100 company to die from COVID-19.

The CEO of Gilster Mary-Lee has become the first chief executive of a Food Processing Top 100 company to die from COVID-19.

Don Welge, 84, passed away April 16 at Missouri Baptist Medical Center in St. Louis. Welge was president and CEO of Gilster Mary-Lee Corp., based in Chester, Ill., a town on the Mississippi River about 47 miles southeast of St. Louis. Welge, who lived most of his life in Chester, was a fixture in the Southern Illinois business community.

Welge’s son, Tom Welge, said that several employees of Gilster Mary-Lee have contracted the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, including himself, although he has since recovered. The elder Welge’s death is the first one from COVID-19 recorded in Randolph County.

Gilster Mary-Lee makes private-label and foodservice products and does contract manufacturing, mostly of dry products like baking mixes and cereals. It ranked 98th on Food Processing’s 2019 Top 100 list, with an estimated $700 million in sales.

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