Gordon Elbridge Wells died on April 14, 2015. He was 87.
Gordon was born in Hamburg, Iowa, on February 27, 1928. His parents were John T. Wells and Pearl B. Wells. He was raised in the northwest Missouri town of Rock Port with his older brother, the late John Turner Wells III. Gordon’s father spent 42 years as a banker at the Citizens Bank & Trust Co. in Rock Port, a career and tradition which he passed on to his son.
Gordon had a classic small town upbringing. At one time, he was thought to be the youngest Eagle Scout in Atchison County, Missouri. He was a talented athlete as a member of the Rock Port High School Blue Jays (which he liked to call “the Rock Port Mufflers”). He was a receiver and punter on the high school football team which had a record unbeaten streak. He also played basketball and ran high hurdles. The local paper once described him as “the Rangy Ace”. He graduated from Rock Port High School in 1946, but never forgot his roots – subscribing to the Atchison County Mail until the day he died.
He served in the US Army, and traveled to Korea before entering the University of Missouri in 1948. He was a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity, where he was nicknamed Deacon as the fraternity’s chaplain. (He later received the Sigma Chi Man of the Year Award in 1977.)
It was at MU that he met the love of his life, Joan Snider (Pinky). He graduated a “true son from Old Mizzou” in 1952 with a Liberal Arts degree. He also attended the Graduate School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin. Gordon and Pinky were married in 1953 and celebrated 61 years of marriage December 19, 2014. They have two children, Gordon E. Wells, Jr. (Sandy) and Sally L. Wells.
Gordon’s banking career was launched in 1952 when he started as a clerk in the Trust Department at the First National Bank of Kansas City, the only bank for which he ever worked. His career as a banker was truly an American success story. He held many positions at the Bank – advancing from clerk into commercial lending all the way up through the ranks to top management. He was named First National Bank’s President in 1971, and in June, 1977, he became the Chairman of the Board of the Bank and eventually the Bank Holding Company.
Gordon was a self-described “conservative banker” who was “old school” in the best sense of the term. He was guided in his career by Midwestern values, a strong work ethic and common sense. In his day, collateral and character counted.
He led the Bank in a period of expansion notably helping to engineer the 1985 merger that created Boatmen’s First National Bank and made Boatmen’s Bancshares the largest bank holding company in the State of Missouri. He was a member of the Association of Reserve City Bankers and the Federal Advisory Council to the Federal Reserve Bank under Paul Volcker. During his career, he corresponded with President Richard Nixon and played golf with Arnold Palmer. At the time of his retirement, he had been an officer of the Bank for 36 years.
Throughout his career, Gordon was active in his community and his chosen career. His civic affiliations included serving on the board of Children’s Mercy Hospital, the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, the Downtown Council and Midwest Research Institute. He led a fundraising drive to endow a Chair in Banking at the MU School of Business and was a member of the University’s Jefferson Club. He also served as President of the Heart of America United Way, Vice President and Director of the American Royal Association and an Advisory Board Member of the Heart of America Boy Scouts of America. He was on the board of many corporations, including Chicago Title Insurance Company and the Victory Reinsurance Company of America.
Gordon and Pinky were members of Mission Hills Country Club for 50 years, and some of his happiest times were playing golf and gin rummy with his friends at the club. Many summers were spent on the shores of Epworth Heights in Ludington, Michigan. And later, they enjoyed warm winters in Rio Verde, Arizona, and many friends at the Garden of the Gods Country Club in Colorado Springs. They were former members of the River Club; and Gordon was also in the Vanguard Breakfast Club (where he had many longtime friends), the Mercury Club and the Man-of-the-Month Fraternity.
He and Pinky were regulars at the 8:00 am service of the Village Presbyterian Church where he had served as a Trustee.
The family wishes to thank his friends and caregivers at Claridge Court and the Village Church. Gordon leaves his family, friends and the Kansas City Community better for having known him.
Gordon is survived by his wife, Joan S. Wells; daughter, Sally L. Wells; son, Gordon E. Wells, Jr. and wife Katherine Lindeman Wells; grandsons, Dr. Robert Snider Wells of Chattanooga, TN., James Preston Wells of Brooklyn, NY and Curtis Lindeman Wells of the home. He was fond of Curtis’s dog, Jackson.
A memorial service will be held on Friday, April 17, 2015 at 1:00 pm at the Village Church (Friendship Hall). In lieu of flowers, contributions are suggested to the Gordon and Joan Wells Allied Health Scholarship Fund at Children’s Mercy Hospital, the Village Presbyterian Church Memorial Fund or the University of Missouri Endowment Chancellor’s Fund.