It was the first fall-feeling day of the season, and John Wells had opened the sliding glass doors bordering his lanai to let the breezes in. George and I sat with John and Kim on that patio, filled with lush plantings and comfortable furnishings, sharing drinks and visiting like the neighbors we are. We talk about the tarpon on the wall, a Jake trophy from a recent fishing trip.
The Wells family has turned neighborliness into an art we all benefit from. Often John has appeared at our front door with a container of spaghetti sauce he’s just made or a starter pot of parsley for me to cultivate. Shelby has brought cookies (she’s the family baker). And John and Jake, observing George struggling to unload a trunkful of mulch, offered youthful muscle to finish the task. Kimberly is the hostess with the mostest, generally throwing neighborhood Christmas parties, or asking us down when our daughters from Texas visit.
Lately John, a one-man task force, has been responsible for the re-creation of the neighborhood crime watch in our part of the Village. He was instrumental in obtaining new Crime Watch signs, prints out lists of involved members, schedules meetings and notifies us when a break-in occurs, a car is stolen or a sexual predator is found to be living nearby. And it’s not as though John doesn’t have to work hard for their living by day.
Consulting Engineering Consultants is his mechanical engineering company. After nine years with another company, John started his own firm eleven years ago, coinciding with the family’s move to Carrollwood Village from Lake George. For some time Kimberly also worked for
Mark of Excellence as (John’s description) Queen of Fire and Flood Restoration. Kim calls it Mold Queen. Whatever. Both are humorous. The day came when John was working long hours and making a good living, and home life was suffering. So John asked her to lunch and suddenly blurted, “This is not working.” Her brown eyes widened and she thought, “Divorce.” He just wanted her to quit her job.
She happily complied, and feels that the whole family is better for it. These days, she satisfies her urge to get out of the house, by teaching Jazzercise. “And I thought I was past the stage where I would dance onstage for money.” She swears she learns something new every day. Like “my shirt is totally see-through when I sweat!” That’s Kimberly for you, grounded and honest.
John and Kim, married for 20 years, are devoted to their family. They met at Leto High School in Town ‘N Country, both of them from middle-class families. They enjoyed a unique off-and-on relationship. Both worked their way through U.S.F. (Go Bulls!), married young and soon welcomed Jake and Shelby.
Fast forward 17 years. Jake is a lanky, laconic, artistic guy who is a senior at Jesuit. Like his sister he is a product of Montessori and Cambridge Christian School. He played lacrosse at Jesuit, but an ACL rupture sidelined him. Jake drives a Dodge pick-up, has lots of friends and has applied to USF, Auburn, LSU, FSU and Gulf Coast universities. He is tentatively planning to study engineering, although his artistic ability may turn him in another direction.
Shelby, 15 going on 16, is bubbly, vivacious…not to mention gorgeous. On December 16 she turns 16; on December 17 she plans to get her driver’s license and acquire a Titan pick-up truck. She’s a soccer player, but intends to also play lacrosse at Tampa Catholic. Her best friend since kindergarten, Jill Watts, also a Villager, is her “sister.” Her goal is to study veterinary medicine at the University of Florida.
Which brings us to Walker, the family Lab. When a visitor walks up the driveway Walker trots out and presents him or her with a shoe. Whose? It could belong to any of the four humans who share his household. Walker respects his invisible fence, is loveable and the perfect pet for this family. The Wellses also house three cats, all less interesting than Walker.
This family loves to travel, spending summertime weeks at Boca Grande, traveling often to North Georgia to spend time with Kim’s Dad and his wife, Mary, a potter. That probably explains why the Wells family uses handmade pottery for everyday dinnerware. Their home is a decorator’s dream, a Kim and John cooperative effort.
Kim’s Mom, Pat, lives here, her two sisters nearby. She’s the kind of girl who attends family reunions and respects her roots.
In a time when family values seem to be corroding, this family stands out. May their tribe increase!
-by Sandra Harrington