A true Renaissance Man!

Jim Foley recalls working for John M. Wells

When I retired from American Optical in 1982 after 16 years of service, I received a phone call from a friend who worked for the Worcester County National Bank. At that time, the Bank was the largest bank in Worcester County and had John. M. Wells as a customer. Mr. Wells was the grandson of the founder of American Optical Corporation. He was 78 years of age when I went to work for him in 1982. My friend at the bank asked me if I would be interested in going to work for Mr. Wells on a part time basis from April to November. I told him I would. He said it would be contingent on Mr. Wells interviewing me and whether he approved of me. The job would consist of driving him and working around the estate assisting the regular maintenance man who was employed full time. The reason the bank was looking for a retired police officer (like me), was to offer Mr. Wells a modicum of security.

As I write this it is about 12 years since Mr. Wells died at the age of 86 on June 26, 1989. I worked for him for about seven years part time. It was a most enjoyable time for me. Although he had left the employ of AO several years before I came to work for him, he knew many of the people I knew when I worked there as Chief of Security. He told me that he was never really happy at the AO , where he was Vice President in charge of Research. He was affiliated with other companies (SeeHarvey Wells Story) and for several years was on the State Airport Commission serving as Chairman. He had a great memory and told me of some of his travels including a trip to Russia.

Mr. Wells outlived two wives and had been a father to a son and two daughters by his first wife. When I worked for him he lived alone with a house-keeper, a butler and had nurses around the clock. I suspect the nurses were around more for company than for actual nursing duties. When Mr. Wells lived at the Estate from April thru November, he attended Rotary Club Meetings, and would always be accompanied by one of the Nurses. A friend told me how much they enjoyed seeing Mr. Wells attending club meetings because he always was accompanied by his nurse who was invariably an attractive registered Nurse. In those days women were not allowed to attend Rotary Club Meetings and Mr. Wells accompanied by his attractive nurse was always a welcome diversion.

Aviation was of great interest to him. While Chairman of the State Airport Commission he was involved in the early planning at Logan Airport. He owned and operated his own twin engine plane that was housed at the Southbridge Airport. He built a hanger to store it that still stands today. I recall him telling me that he was planning on buying a single engine plane. When his father realized how much he was devoted to flying his father bought him a twin engine plane - two engines being better than one.

Because of his many and varied interests I concluded that John Wells was a true Renaissance Man!

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