Boston transplant ‘officially relaxed’ in Park City
November 7, 2014
John Wells will never officially retire. He is, however, "officially relaxed." That’s the euphemism he coined when he put the brakes on a career that had moved at breakneck speed for 25 years. Wells, who officially moved to Park City four years ago, just doesn’t like the word retire. That likely explains why the affable, energetic 60-something immersed himself in volunteer work at the local TV and radio stations soon after his arrival here. He stays busy enough doing the things he loves, but he’s definitely relaxed about it.
Wells, or "JW" as his friends call him, forged a highly successful career in high-tech senior sales management while living in Boston, Massachusetts, but it came at a price. "I had been traveling almost every week since 1974 and logged over four million frequent-flyer miles. In 2000 I just decided to take a break from technology and do some things I was not able to do before," he explains.
Those things included spending a lot more time with his family. He coached his son’s basketball and baseball teams, learned to paint and sculpt in classes at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and served on the board of several Boston-area nonprofit organizations. His break from work proved to be a turning point in his life.
Wells was born in Baltimore and grew up on the move with his family, from Maryland, to New York, to Massachusetts. Though he was a good student through school, he had a mischievous side. He tells the story of an ill-considered adventure when, at age 10, he and a friend attempted to start a helicopter on display at an FBI-sponsored picnic. "I loved helicopters. My best friend Bobby and I waited for half-an-hour to sit in that Bell 47. We took the tape off a couple of plugs, stuck them together and immediately the gauges lit up and a loud whining sound started. The bored FBI guy manning the display was suddenly very interested in us. We got in some trouble," he chuckles.
In high school Wells ran afoul of his English teacher when he blurted out in class that the only reason Henry David Thoreau went to Walden Pond was because his mother booted him out of the house. "My college friend John told me that and I thought Miss Thistead should know. She turned red, started yelling and spit flew out of her mouth. She took me to the principal’s office and demanded that I be suspended for a few days. She was quite fond of her Henry," he recalls.
After high school Wells attended the University of Maryland, taking a degree in business. "I put myself through college, so I had a lot of jobs and worked every summer, but I couldn’t have been happier. Personal responsibility was intimidating at first and I wrestled with money issues, but once I got it down I found freedom exhilarating," he says.
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Degree in hand, he went to work in sales and steadily advanced in sales management over the next two decades. He married and had two children, now grown. Jacquelyn, now 27, has a successful jewelry business in Boston. Johnnie, 22, lives and works as a software test engineer in Charlotte, North Carolina. His marriage ended in 2007.
When he took his break almost 15 years ago, Wells was senior director of the eastern U.S. and Canada and the federal division for Net App, a company that designed and built high-performance, reliable storage systems. The company had gone public and become a member of the Fortune 500. Wells could relax in relative comfort. During the break, he served as president and chairman of the board for the Lowell Transitional Living Center, a 90-bed shelter near Boston with a kitchen that served 45,000 meals a year. "When the executive director quit we couldn’t afford to hire another one, so I took on the job for two years," says Wells. "Our ‘clients’ were mostly beautiful people who had situations in their lives that were not necessarily their fault. I naturally gravitated toward them because they were really good people with really big problems. While my career in technology was great, my time at the shelter was the most gratifying."
An avid skier, Wells had been coming to Park City with friends every winter since 1989. The town beckoned inexorably until he finally moved here in 2010, settling in Park Meadows. "I was an empty nester, divorced and ready for a change after living in the Boston area for most of my life. I was also ready for an adventure, which it has been.
"I’ll tell you why I love living here," he elaborates. "Only three percent of Park City’s population was born here. That means 97 percent of the population came from somewhere else. They wanted to live here for the mountains and the lifestyle. That’s unique. The important thing is they want to be here and they’re happy. I like living in a town like that."
Though he was "officially relaxed," Wells admits he was offered and accepted a position soon after he moved here. "My college roommate Frank of the No Name Saloon, wanted me to come to work for him. I said no until he offered me a job as Intergalactic Atmosphere Coordinator, which sounded pretty good to me. I interacted with customers, mostly from this galaxy, and bought them shots. I did the job for about a month and figured out it wasn’t in the best interest of my health."
Wells volunteered at Park City Television for several months before he transitioned to his current volunteer posts at KPCW radio. The choice came easily to the outgoing, talkative newcomer. "I absolutely love music! I love listening to it and talking about it. I’m also fascinated by science and new technology," he explains. That combination of interests led to multiple volunteer positions as an afternoon disc jockey, substitute DJ, co-host of "Cool Science Radio" on Thursday mornings and the "Morning Mix" on Friday mornings. He’s reluctant to take sole credit for his service. "The entire staff works behind the scenes to help put the best possible show on the air. I can’t say enough about this small group of people under the leadership of Larry Warren."
Wells is looking forward to fresh powder this winter. In the meantime, he’s passionately pursuing dual goals of being officially relaxed and "an authentic person."
- Favorite foods: "I enjoy all food."
- Favorite music: "I enjoy it all but I prefer live music because it’s so much more soulful."
- Favorite reading: "The Killer Angels," by Michael Shaara, a story of the Battle of Gettysburg; also Stephen Ambrose history books, techno-thrillers, science and technology journals.
- Animal companions: A five-month-old puppy named Pork Chop.
Steve Phillips is a Park City-based writer and actor. Send your profile comments and suggestions to him at email@example.com