Thursday, July 30, 2015
Another Good One Gone — R.I.P., Pete Wells
What a terrible year it's been for losing friends.
This morning, I was stunned to learn that Pete Wells, an old friend from my hometown, had died unexpectedly due to complications from diabetes — the same thing that killed my dad, as a matter of fact, back in 2001. Pete, though, was only a year older than I. We grew up in the same neighborhood in Martinsville, VA, in the 1960s and early 1970s, and while our paths crossed with some regularity, we never really became close friends. Still, we knew almost all the same people, attended the same schools, shared countless of the same growing-up-in-Martinsville experiences — even if not at the same time. It wasn't until relatively recent years when we reconnected on Facebook that we ended up getting to know each other, far better than we ever had in our youths. We also both participated in the two Smith Brothers movies, Young Blood: Evil Intentions and Invasion of the Killer Cicadas, both filmed in Martinsville. In 2012, at the premiere of Young Blood, I saw Pete face to face for the first time since high school, and though we didn't get to spend much time together, since then, I don't believe there has been a single day we didn't spend time in each other's online company, sometimes at considerable length.
What a pleasure. What a treasure to have gotten to know Pete over these past few years.
He and I held virtually identical views on politics, religion, and people. He had strong ties to Martinsville, and I have marveled at some of the facts about the town he carried around in his head. He could sometimes tell me things about my hometown that I've never known, even though I still visit Martinsville every few weeks. I've often prided myself on having a photographic memory of certain times and places from the 1960s and 1970s, but his total recall put mine to shame. I remember the 1970s Pete as being much more a rebel than I ever was, which is probably why we didn't connect on a very deep level back then (of course, my memory of those days is sometimes a little skewed). But in these more recent times, I learned he was a warm, intelligent, and very generous fellow. He was perhaps most generous with his wit, and while he delivered his opinions on most any subject with honesty and candor, when he disagreed with others, he could do it while remaining respectful, even jovial, which is a trait I think more of us should at least aspire to emulate.
He often shared bits and pieces of his life in Rome, GA, to which he also clearly had strong ties. In his words — typed words, at that — you could feel his love for his family (whom I have unfortunately never had the pleasure of meeting) and his critters. He never failed to send his compliments to my critters, too, which always meant the world to me.
Pete, my friend, it has been my privilege to know you. From a distance, you've inspired me, and I would go so far as to say that our time together has made me a better, more honorable person. I will miss you the rest of my days.
Taken way too young, Pete Wells.