How do you describe the life of a person using a bit of pencil and a piece of paper? Or how do you capture the essence of someone using letters in a computer file? Most would start at the beginning - November 23, 1930 in Cave Junction, Oregon - but what does that tell you about who he was or what he became? The same for the date and year of his death - June 18, 2020, South Poe Valley, Klamath Falls. These are merely the front and back covers of a person’s life, but they contain no indicators about the story inside. No, the true measure of a man is of the impact he made on the world: the family he raised, the neighbors he helped, the crops and livestock he produced that provided food for others.
The person we are talking about was born Emil Dean Wells. Most knew him simply as Dean, with the exception of telephone solicitors, where calls to the Wells household that began with, “May I speak to Emil Wells, please” most often received a ‘click’ in response.
Dean’s early childhood was spent in and around Cave Junction, Oregon with stops in San Mateo, CA and Yuma, AZ before returning to Klamath Falls for high school, graduating in 1950. Giving up an opportunity to play football at Oregon State, he joined the Army and was assigned to the Army Medical Corps, where he served as a dental assistant in Korea during the Korean War. After his service he returned to South Poe Valley to farm and to marry the love of his life, Geraldine Masten, in 1956. The two began a sixty-four-year marriage that lasted until Gerrie’s death a week before Dean’s.
In 1957 Dean & Gerrie moved to Rupert, Idaho to farm, after receiving land through the Farm Credit Act. In their four years there, they met lifelong friends, Ernie and JoAnn McNeil. Dean, Ernie and others went on yearly elk hunting trips for over 30 years in the Selway River area of northeastern Idaho, packing into the wilderness on horseback with enough beef, bacon & eggs, potatoes and whiskey to last at least two weeks. Coming home with an elk only about half the time, the memories of those trips were the highlight of the year.
They returned to Klamath Falls in 1962, residing and farming in South Poe Valley for the next 58 years; baling hay on board his M Farmall and operating the windrower during potato harvest were his favorite farm activities. During that time Dean was also an active member of the National Farmers Organization, the KBID Board, Benevolent Protective Order of Elks, Shriners International and a 66-year member of the Masonic Lodge.
He is survived by his children - Robin Kassman (Dustin), John Wells (LaVonne), four grandchildren of whom he was immensely proud - Victoria Kassman, Tynan Kassman, Emry Wells and Ryan Wells, sister Mary Klus (Rod), Uncle Clint Trefethen, cousins Bill, John, Janie & Larry Trefethen, and extended family.
The Wells family would like to thank the caregivers who took such loving care of Dean and Gerrie over the years - Destiney, Karen, Linda, Maribel and Shauna. Dean’s most fervent wish was to die in the valley he loved and these women and the staff at High Desert Hospice made that possible.
The truth of the matter is, sentences and phrases are never enough to describe a person and it would be foolish to try. Instead, talk to the family he fiercely loved, the neighbors he unselfishly helped, those who ate the food he produced and the people who cared for him. Pencil and paper are not enough.
Memorial contributions can be made to the Shriners Hospital for Children in Portland, Oregon. You can easily donate at donate.lovetotherescue.org.
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