ENID, Okla. — Retired Enid educator and golf coach Gene Wells is being remembered as a “great communicator’’ by friends and colleagues.
Services for Wells, 87, will be held at 10 a.m. Friday in St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church with the Rev. Father Mark Mason officiating.
Wells, who retired at Vance Air Force Base in 1977 after 20 years in the service, taught geography and coached golf at both Waller and Longfellow junior high schools before starting the Phillips University golf program.
“He lived an interesting life,’’ said John Wright, who was the principal at Longfellow when Wells taught there. “He sure loved to tell stories. He was a nice guy that was liked by everybody.’’
Wells never saw teaching junior high — often considered to be the most challenging — to be that difficult, Wright said.
“I don’t think he thought it was tough,’’ Wright said. “He did it because it was something he wanted to do and it was fun. He did it because he enjoyed teaching.’’
He was a good communicator “because he liked to talk so much,’’ Wright said. That would carry on to the classroom.
Wright couldn’t pinpoint “anything special’’ about Wells’ secret except he had what it took to be a mentor and teacher.
“He spent a lot of time with them,’’ Wright said. “He tried to explain things so everybody could understand. They really liked him, and he really liked them.’’
He was a natural to teach geography, Wright said, because of his Air Force travels, which included three tours of Vietnam. His wife, Annie, is a native of France.
“He had a lot of knowledge about a lot of different places,’’ Wright said.
Wells, while known as a storyteller, would not talk much about his Vietnam experiences.
“From what I understand, he was a great pilot,’’ Wright said.
Wells owned and operated Gene’s Aviation and became a private flight instructor and private pilot.
“His two favorite things to talk about, other than his son (Paul), were flying and golf,’’ Wright said.
“Some of his most fun ones were when he was hauling around rodeo cowboys.’’
In the summers he would fly prominent rodeo stars, like Roy Cooper, as they tried to make two or three rodeos a day to accumulate points.
“There were a lot of good times,’’ Wright said.
Wells started out as a substitute teacher, but later became a full-time instructor.
“He knew what he was getting into,’’ Wright said. “He wanted to provide something to those kids and they responded because of it.’’
Oakwood Country Club golf pro Tim Mendenhall said Wells was a “great person for junior golf.’’
Wright said Wells’ players “seemed to respond to him’’ while he was coaching at Longfellow.
When Mendenhall was asked by Phillips officials for a recommendation for a coach in the early 1990s, Mendenhall gave them Wells’ name.
“I knew how much he loved golf and being around the kids,’’ Mendenhall said. “He could relate to players really well. He did everything he could for the player. He always went beyond the call of duty.’’
Mendenhall said his proteges included Jay Mitchell, a golf pro in West Texas; Brandon Alexander, a teaching pro in Palm Springs; and Kyley Tetley, a teaching pro at Indian Springs in Tulsa.
“He inspired a lot of kids to be golf professionals,’’ Mendenhall said.
Mendenhall agreed with Wright that Wells had a knack for communicating with young kids, especially those in junior high.
“He disciplined those kids on the golf teams, but he did it the right way,’’ Mendenhall said. “He was passionate. He just had the personality and knack to get along with all of those kids. It was just amazing what he was able to do with them. Those kids listened to him because they knew he was a compassionate individual.’’
Wells, in retirement, helped with Oakwood Country Club’s junior golf program in the summers “until he just couldn’t do it anymore,’’ Mendenhall said.
“Those kids called him Geno,’’ Mendenhall said. “He gave those kids 100%. He just didn’t go through the motions.’’
Wells himself was a good player, Mendenhall said. He often would be accompanied by his dog, Paris, on both the driving range and the course.
“He was not a young person at this time, but he would carry his own bag and walk the course,’’ Mendenhall said. “Paris would be walking up with him.
“He had a lot of energy. He would love to talk golf, the golf swing, the PGA Tour … golf was his passion. He loved every minute of it.’’