Flags were at half-mast at Governor Simcoe Square in honour of former Norfolk County councillor John Wells, who died Oct. 27. He was 76.
The retired educator was a long-time municipal politician known for keeping an eye on municipal spending. He represented Norfolk’s Ward 6 (Port Dover) from the county’s inception in 2001 until 2018. He previously served as Port Dover’s representative for the City of Nanticoke.
Norfolk Mayor Kristal Chopp announced his passing at a council meeting.
Wells announced his retirement from politics ahead of the 2018 municipal election but later had a change of heart and once again threw his hat in the ring. The Ward 6 council seat, however, was won by newcomer Amy Martin.
In a Facebook post, Martin paid tribute to Wells.
“When you walked into council chambers, Mr. Wells would always spin his chair around and greet you with a head nod, even if council was in the middle of a debate or report,” she wrote.
“I now have the honour of sitting in that same seat. I have always had big shoes to fill. I have always had a good example of what advocacy looked like in our community and I’ve always had an ally in Mr. Wells, as this new council really just shuffled his projects across the finish line. He worked tirelessly on projects throughout this community and many of them were a success. Others, like Misner Dam, are still his successes and, without his dedication and beat-downs at council, I would not have been able to play my role in it.”
Wells was respected by those who have served on Norfolk council, including Charlie Luke, who spent 18 years in the chambers with him.
“I remember the first impression,” he said in a phone interview. “Such a big man, such a big laugh and such a big heart. That has stayed with me all these years.”
Luke and Wells both worked in education before being elected as Ward 5 and 6 councillors, respectively.
“We saw a lot of each other, and not just in the council chamber, we became personal friends,” said Luke. “He enjoyed the council work very much, as much as anybody I know. He was a natural at it, he was always well prepared, and always seeking advice from others.
“He loved Norfolk County, he certainly loved the community. He was involved in so many things in the community, and I am really going to miss him. I am really sad, it seems so sudden.”
Luke described Wells as a family man, mentioning his two sons, John and Dean, and his granddaughter, Elizabeth.
Wells is also survived by wife Betty.
He often was seen in the role of town crier at events such as the annual Santa Claus parade and volunteered to help serve up cheer at the community Christmas Day luncheon.
In 2018, Wells was named Port Dover’s Citizen of the Year. In 2019, the Norfolk County Public Library unveiled the John Wells Reading Lounge. Wells was a member of the library board for several years and led the fundraising drive for the new Port Dover library branch.
In discussing the honour, Wells put the community first.
“I think what is more important than the John Wells (Reading Lounge) is the fact that we have a library serving the needs of the community, that’s the important thing. I don’t think any one individual, while I appreciate the honour, I don’t think any one individual was any more important than anyone else. It was a group effort,” Wells said at the time.
In an interview prior to running for council in 2018, Wells mentioned he was battling Parkinson’s disease.
— With files from Kim Novak