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.
Wells’ 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 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.
I 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.