Hoisting One for a Friend

Derrick Coyle

Derrick Coyle

Today would have been his 60th birthday.

Not that we weren’t prepared to forfeit the festivities. As things turned out, he was also denied his 50th. It’s been fourteen years since my good friend, Ken Wells, died suddenly at age 46.

I say my good friend, but in truth, Wells had more good friends than anyone I know. His brand of fraternity and system of social networking was unique, and it was developed long before the world of social media and cyber friendships we know today.

WellsFishing1aWells’ friend count was never measured in Facebook contacts, but it was more than evident in the number of people with whom he shared meaningful experiences and lasting life memories. Whether participating in wedding parties, playing and watching sports, sharing travel adventures, or just hanging out to hoist a pint and engage in some lively debate with pals, he was inevitably at the center of the action.

For Wells, sharing something was a story well told, or real people participating in actual activity. If he liked (or disliked) something, he didn’t need to click an icon to get the message across. A hashtag was just a number sign and he knew what was trending by what he read in the newspaper.

***

Wells WassailWells was the orchestral energy for a large collection of friends. He had little tolerance for inactivity and was the social prod for the procrastinators among us. If it occurred to him to do something, he’d simply invite friends and make it happen; if it struck him to catch up with someone, he’d pick up the phone; when he had an opinion about something, he wouldn’t hesitate to make it known.

I’m heartened – amid the melancholy of the day – by the strength of the memories of times we shared. The Monarch Park high school hockey years – when Wells centered Jober’s ‘COW’ line in the most meaningful hockey we ever played; me getting him a part time job at the Toronto Sun, and he reciprocating and co-coercing me into the insurance job that turned into a 35-year career; he being part of the initial double-date – and ultimately the wedding party – leading to my marriage of 35 years; a five-guys trip to the Bahamas; French River fishing trips and Winter Wassails at the Coyle cottage; downhill skiing in Vermont; Oktoberfests in Kitchener; ball hockey with the Beaches Beavers; countless golf games; and impassioned showdowns between the Cowboys and his beloved Steelers.

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WellsDC2aI suspect Wells would have adapted quite nicely to the social technology of the day. He was generally at the leading edge of any new product developments. Whether espousing the virtues of snow condition formulations of Jack Rabbit cross-country ski wax, raving about the performance of his Datsun F10, buying up the latest in golf club and running shoe offerings, or vigorously debating Stren versus Berkley Trilene as the superior brand of fishing line – he always sought and enthusiastically promoted innovation.

In fact, I think Wells would likely have had a blog of his own – and it would have been a very entertaining read. I think he would have also been an active on-line commentator for issues of the day. I can just imagine what he’d be writing about Donald Trump right now.

Tonight I’m hoisting a pint for my good buddy, Ken Wells.

*****

10 comments

  1. Bob George says:

    Great stuff Derrick! Fantastic that you guys stayed that close over the years. He was one of my first buddies when I joined Kew Beach Public School half way through grade 2 and we were pretty tight till I left Monarch after grade 12. I had really enjoyed playing school hockey with you guys that year too! I found out recently that my dad moved mom and I to Exeter at that point in time so he could be with his mistress during the week in t.o. and come home to us on the weekend! Straight arrow copper that he was. Anyway it must have been hard for you to lose your pal at such a young age. I seem to be losing a bunch lately. Part of the deal…but still really tough. Great article man! Cheers

    • DC says:

      Thanks, Bob. He definitely made an impact on a good many people through the school days and that really didn’t change in his professional life. Great memories. Nice to hear from you and all the best in the west!

  2. Kathy Colvin says:

    Fabulous read and totally on point. It made me both laugh and cry !
    Hope all is well !

    • DC says:

      I went through much the same writing it and picking out the photos, Kathy. Still think about him often and remember the adventures like it was yesterday.

  3. Lauren Clarke says:

    For sure Uncle Ken would have a blog and it would of course be a great read 🙂

    • DC says:

      I always found your Uncle Ken to be a master of the story, Lauren. Had to look up some of the words he used, but never failed to enjoy his perspective and sense of humour. 🙂

  4. Teresa Jazbec says:

    Nice. As usual, so well written Derrick. A great tribute to sounds what was and is a great friend.

    • DC says:

      Thanks very much, Teresa. He was really one of a kind and a big influence through some memorable years in my life. Hope all is going well for you.

  5. Rick says:

    Well Done SF, this Man (in the real sense – not the pretentious Corporate one) sounds like a true role model. As I enter the “shallow end” of 60, I have had the good fortune of having the friendship of a precious few of these. In fact, a Doc and a Fox.

    • DC says:

      Thanks very much, my friend – right back at ya! And have a great week with the good doctor in the land of the midnight sun.

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