Ed Wells was a consummate businessman who served his country, community, and God.
Edward Kenneth Wells was born in Hanna, Oklahoma in 1925, graduated from Hanna High School and attended college, all before being drafted at 18. He was discharged from the military in 1945 and subsequently enrolled at Oklahoma A&M College (now Oklahoma State University) where he met his bride-to-be, Earlene Donahoo. On January 1, 1948, the couple was betrothed in the First Assembly of God Church in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The Reverend Verlin Stewart officiated.
The pair went on to have three children: Waldan, Alan, and Anna.
Wells graduated from Oklahoma A&M in 1949 and sold life insurance for a year, at which point he was called back to active duty to serve as a commissioned officer in the Korean Conflict.
Ed and Earlene moved to Sapulpa in 1953, and in 1955, they opened Dollarwise Furniture, a used furniture and appliance store at 110 East Hobson Avenue, featuring Westinghouse TVs and appliances.
Ed immediately immersed himself in community service. He became a member of the Jaycees, the Sapulpa Chamber of Commerce, and the Sapulpa Lions Club, he participated in many downtown Sapulpa events sponsored by fellow merchants and helped organize the annual Sapulpa Christmas Parade. Wells was also appointed Chairman of the Selective Service Board.
He was a faithful member of First Assembly of God, teaching Sunday School for many years.
Earlene followed suit and vigorously pursued a life of community service.
She was elected President of the Women’s Chamber of Commerce, the Lionesses Club, the Salvation Army, and the advisory Board for Creek County Child Welfare Services.
She also served her Lord as a member of the First Assembly of God, teaching preschool Sunday School classes for over four decades.
Ed moved his business to 200 East Lee in November of 1962. He said in an interview with the Sapulpa Daily Herald that the move was “called for” by a general expansion of the business. The new location had more square footage.
“The pasture looked greener here, so we decided to move. We have exactly twice as much room, and also, we own our own building.”
Ed served on the Sapulpa City Council from 1966 to 1976 and served as Mayor from 1975-1976.
Wells was a watchdog for taxpayer money and was known for his frugality. Once, at a city council meeting, Ed vociferously expressed his displeasure about receiving his council packet with 12 cents postage due.
While on the council Wells was instrumental in acquiring the land for Davis, Kelley Lane, and Wickham Parks. He also served as Sapulpa’s representative to the Indian Nations Council of Governments.
Tragedy struck Wells’ Furniture in 1981 when the building was destroyed by a fire.
According to a story in the June 1st Sapulpa Daily Herald, over 30 firefighters responded to the alarm which came in at midnight. They battled the blaze for over three hours, finally containing the fire at 3:30 a.m.
Firefighters found the side door of the furniture store open, and later that morning, they found a fire-proof safe with its doors open among the ruins. Wells told the Sapulpa Daily Herald that when he drove by the store at 8 p.m. on Sunday night, the side door was closed. He also stated that the safe, which contained legal documents, was always kept closed.
Fire Chief Bob Alberding said: “Somebody went in the side door; the next thing is to determine who.”
The Charm Beauty Shop, which was next door to the furniture store, suffered heavy smoke, fire, and water damage. It was reported that the apartments above the beauty shop were “gutted.” An elderly woman who lived in the apartments was rescued without injury. Both the Wells Furniture Store and the building next to it were eventually razed.
The building which housed the furniture store was constructed in 1905 and first housed Haper’s Grocery and Feed Store. Safeway occupied the building from the 1940s until the mid-1950s when a new building was built where the Post Office now sits.
Ed quickly reopened in the downtown building he had recently purchased that was previously occupied by Security National Bank (now First United Bank). He rented out the upper floors to professionals and also rented the safety deposit boxes left in the former bank.
Wells and his wife ran the business and building known as the Wells Building until Ed sold the building in 2009 to MetroPlains, LLC. The iconic five-story building was transformed into four 32 senior living apartments spanning the four upper floors.
Ed’s son, Dr. Alan Wells, remembers working for his dad at his furniture store on Lee Street. “It was just whatever needed doing, putting together furniture, delivering it.” Dr. Wells said that his father stripped furniture, “I did a lot of that.”
One thing that stood out in Dr. Wells’s recollection of his dad was that his father did not seem to be worried about personal injury. “It seems like he had no concern for his safety at all.” One incident involved Judge Rick Woolery and Ed on the third floor of the Wells Building.
“There was something outside, I don’t know what it was, and dad wanted to get to it. So he opened the window and he had Judge Woolery hold his legs while he got his whole body out the window working on whatever it was. After about ten minutes, he said: ‘Rick, don’t hold my legs so tight, my feet are going to sleep!’”
Now, as Paul Harvey would say: “Here is the rest of the story.”
Ed Wells not only served his country in World War II, he did so meritoriously and heroically.
As a Naval medic attached to Baker Company in the 4th Marine regiment in Okinawa, Japan, he put aside his regard for personal safety and risked life and limb repeatedly on the “front line.”
In his book titled, Hey Doc, he tells of the horrific conditions under which he worked.
Here are some excerpts:
“Combat is a combination of noise, dirt, smole, and steel. Vision is impaired by blue, yellow, brown, and white smoke. The impact of scrap iron and bullets to the body is relatively quiet. A few strikes do cause a cry or exclamation, but most do not. The shock that accompanies cuts short most verbal responses. Some wounds cause paralysis at the time of impact. Some others cause loud and continual outcries.”
All the weapons of war were being used by both sides. A red-headed fellow named McGee was hit on his white phosphorus grenade which exploded, setting him on fire. He burned all night, only his shoes left by daybreak.
A mortar shell landed within thirty feet of me, almost on a marine named Dickerson. This shell exploded, leaving Dickerson’s leg barely attached to his body. I used my “K Bar” knife to finish removing his leg and got a tourniquet on the stub. I gave him a couple shots of morphine. He was not conscious.
All officers and 255 enlisted men of our original strength were killed (130) or wounded except for 5. How they were untouched is a complete mystery.”
“Hey Doc, we need you over here” was a refrain that was etched into Ed Wells’s brain. Ed was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star was for his valor and bravery.
Ed Wells passed away peacefully in a VA hospital January 30, 2016. Heaven rejoiced but his friends and loved ones grieved.
As is the case with so many great people who made Sapulpa a wonderful place to live, Ed Wells is gone but not forgotten.