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Memorial service to honour beloved Sarnian Allen Wells

Tara Jeffrey Allen Wells was not one to shy away from anything.
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Allen Wells poses for a portrait at his home in Sarnia on June 8, 2012. Photo by Colin O’Connor for Maclean’s

Tara Jeffrey

Allen Wells was not one to shy away from anything.

“He was an advisor, a confidant, an emergency resource for just about anyone who would ask,” son Paul Wells said of his late father — a longtime CAER administrator and staunch advocate for improved safety and emergency management in Sarnia’s Chemical Valley.

“Even after he retired, he kept an eye on things, and he was not shy about letting people know when he didn’t think (CAER) was fulfilling its mandate, to keep people informed.

“That’s a guy who looks out for his community.”

Wells, who passed away in May at age 88, is being remembered and celebrated at a memorial service at the Sarnia Riding Club on Saturday, Aug. 17, from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Friends and associates are invited to gather and pay their respects, with remarks from family and community members at 1:30 p.m.

“There are a pretty small number of people who make a community, and we were always really proud that Allen Wells was one of those people,” said his son.

“This is to acknowledge my dad’s service to the community and how much Sarnia mattered to him, and to the family.”

Born and raised in western Canada, Wells, who was blinded in one eye at a young age, was the youngest ever (at the time) to graduate from the University of Alberta’s agriculture program. He lived and taught in Yellowknife, Barbados and Sierra Leone before settling in Sarnia, where he started out as a math teacher at SCITS.

In the 1980s he become the director of education at what is now the Lambton Kent District School Board, where he was beloved by students and teachers alike.

“He managed to walk this amazing tight rope of having teachers and administration love him — that is pretty hard to do,” said Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley, who recalled Wells’ wit and sense of humour.

“There are very few people who define the word ‘Renaissance person,’ but he certainly did.”

Long after his time as CAER administrator from 1989 to 2001, Wells continued to push for community safety and awareness; criticizing the group’s lack of transparency in a 2016 guest column in the Sarnia Journal.

“If community awareness is not striven for, every day,” he wrote, “Sarnia will be a topic of news in surviving communities around the world.”

Bradley called the column “a really good legacy for the community.

He was vigilant and aggressive of bringing in better communication; new ways to deal with the public, and also holding industry accountable,” he said.

“And I think that has been lost in the last few years.”

His community involvement spanned decades, from Centre by the Bay to the United Way.

“If canvassing was needed around the neighbourhood, he would do it,” said Wells. “If there was fundraising needed for the jungle gym in the public park out behind our house, he was on it.”

Wells had recently moved to Oshawa to be closer to family. There was no funeral following his death on May 5; his body was donated to the University in Toronto.

And while family members are scattered throughout Canada, it’s only fitting for the memorial to be held in Sarnia — his home for 51 years, said Wells, an author, TV pundit and senior writer at Maclean's magazine.

“If Sarnia is a great place to make a life — as everyone knows that it is — it’s because people like Allen Wells never stopped making it so.”

Anyone looking for more information on the service can contact [email protected]

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