Cover photo for Herschel Wells's Obituary
Herschel Wells Profile Photo

Herschel Wells

December 18, 1934 — December 27, 2022

Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Herschel Wells

Herschel Alton Wells, 88, died peacefully in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on December 27, 2022. He grew up in the house where he was born on December 18, 1934, in Memphis, Tennessee, and attended Treadwell Elementary and High Schools. It was there that his artistic talents developed, as he recalled teachers asking him to draw holiday scenes on their classroom blackboards. Afterward, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps, following the example of his father, who was in the Army in WWI. Most of his time in the service was spent in Indonesia as an embassy guard, an experience that encouraged his love of travel and other cultures.

Upon returning to Memphis, he married the love of his life, Mary Ann Carter, in 1959. After working a few years at Dupont Chemical Company, he earned a degree from the Memphis College of Art, and it was there that his love of photography took hold. He prided himself on working hard to get the perfect picture, and his daughters were often unwilling subjects as they all learned about lighting, shutter speed, and how an eye can blink quicker than a flash. After graduation, he began his career with the Baptist Brotherhood Commission, where he worked as a graphic designer on publications geared toward Christian missions.

While working at the Brotherhood, he took numerous mission trips, which included digging wells for water in Upper Volta—now known as Bourkina Fasso;leading children’s Bible schools in Peru; and working with Native American children in the American West. In 1972, he and several friends, including Wade Watts, a missionary in Peru, organized the Royal Ambassadors Camp-O-Ree for Baptist men and boys at Camp Cordova on the outskirts of Memphis. It became an annual camping retreat attended by thousands over the years and celebrated its 50th anniversary this past October.

It was during this time that he joined Second Baptist Church with his family, due in no small part to the influence of the Rev. Dr. Brooks Ramsay, who marched in Memphis with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Dr. James Hatley, whose leadership continued to build the church as a center of ministry in Memphis. Herschel served in many capacities over his years there, including as a deacon, Sunday School teacher, Royal Ambassador missions leader, and, as it was a Baptist church, innumerable church committees.

In 1997, the Southern Baptist Convention, which had been consolidating its hold on leadership since the 1980s, decided to shutter the doors of the Brotherhood Commission. This turn of events led Herschel to start his own small business, Wells Graphic Design, where he did work for local businesses and also became known for designing cookbooks for churches and charities across the country.

His love for travel and outdoor adventures never waned. He especially enjoyed exploring the West, often with some of the men and boys from church, and the Grand Canyon was one of his favorite destinations. He took at least four trips there, two of which included hiking down into the Canyon and camping there before making the hike back out. He and Mary went there together, including once during a train trip across the West with his brother and sister-in-law.

Herschel also developed an affinity for fly fishing, along with all the gear that went with it, and for many years he and a group of friends took trips to various locations across the country. They always went on Mother’s Day weekend, which they explained away as actually being a gift to their wives. They usually fished in Minnesota’s boundary waters, an extremely rigorous trip that required them to portage their canoes as they traversed from one spot to another. One year, they came upon a hapless Boy Scout troop that had not caught much in the way of fish, so they set up camp, built a fire, and shared their bounty with them.

He and Mary loved Memphis, and over the years they enjoyed much of what the city had to offer, including season tickets to Memphis Tigers basketball, Theatre Memphis, and the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. There were frequent trips to Overton Park, the Zoo, museums, and, of course, the river, especially when the 4th of July fireworks show was there. Their favorite restaurant was Huey’s, where they often took their grandchildren for its iconic hamburgers and toothpicks in the ceiling, and it was where they had lunch on their way out of Memphis for the last time.

After retirement, they stayed busy together, taking a mission trip with Second Baptist to Honduras, tutoring children at Brinkley Heights Baptist Church, working with a homeless ministry, and helping the children at Camp Second, while also continuing to work with the Camp-O-Ree. They visited the Maine coastline twice, and took an excursion to Europe, which included renting a car and finding the church in a small French village where his father had encamped in 1918. Closer to home, Herschel spent hours pursuing his woodworking hobby, including building a large double bookcase for Mary, which housed many of their books, Bibles, and mementoes.

In 2014, health issues led them to move to Tuscaloosa to be in closer proximity to their daughters. Once there, Herschel remained loyal to his Memphis Tigers and UT Vols, although he did learn to enjoy watching the Crimson Tide play, too.

Herschel was preceded in death by his father, Herbert Marshall Wells; his mother, Irene Morris Wells; his step-mother, Stella Mae Anderson Wells; his brother, George Marshall Wells; and his nephew, David Wells, with whom he bonded over their interest in genealogy.

He is survived by his wife, Mary Ann Carter Wells; his daughter Carol Wells Allen and her husband, Bona Allen, who was like a son to him; his daughter Dianne Calhoun Bragg; his sister-in-law, Anne Wells; his grandchildren, Joshua Calhoun, Caleb Calhoun (Jordan), Jake Calhoun (Rosie), Charles Sills, Ann-Marie Sills, and Monty Allen (Jess); two great-grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews.

The family would like to thank all those who helped care for and love Herschel these past few years, including his Second Baptist family, the staff at Pine Valley Retirement Community and Heritage Healthcare, VA Home Health, Amedysis Hospice, and his doctors, especially Dr. Anand Pandey.

The family asks that, in lieu of flowers or other gifts, memorials be sent to Second Baptist Church in Memphis,; the RA Camp-O-Ree,; the National ParkService,; or an organization of the donor’s choosing.

A memorial service and celebration of his life will be held at a later date at St. Luke’s Presbyterian Church in Dunwoody, Georgia. The family will provide details at that time.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Herschel Wells, please visit our flower store.


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