& Free Trip to Margaritaville
As Harold Wells remembers, and at age 92 he still remembers everything, he was part of a crew that was building a pipeline from Texarkana to Little Rock, Arkansas. The year was 1950, and the occasion was the company Christmas party being held at the Broadway Hotel in Prescott, Arkansas. As Harold and friends mingled with other guests, his gaze came to rest upon the girl who would become the love of his life. Pat Wren and her girlfriends were enjoying the festivities, and getting acquainted with her became his all-consuming focus for the rest of the evening. After meeting Pat and discovering she loved to skate, Harold took up skating in hopes of spending time with her. As Harold recounts, “It took a while, but she finally agreed to a date. And no floral bouquet for her! Butterfinger candy bars were her favorite, so I would take 4 or 5 Butterfingers when I picked her up. That must have sealed the deal!”
Harold and Pat dated for six months, then time came for her high school graduation trip at the end of May. Chaperoned by several adults, including her mom and her friend’s mom, Pat and her friend Sydney rode the bus with the other graduates, followed closely by a car containing Harold and his friend Billy. The destination was the diamond mine area in Murfreesboro, and the day proved to be quite a significant one in the lives of both girls. Before the trip ended, both girls had been proposed to and returned home with rings on their fingers! And as Pat says, “Those rings were our tickets to a car ride back home with our brand-new fiancés!”
Plans were made for a July wedding, but plans are made to break! As Harold tells it, “We were dancing and partying one night in June, and I told Pat that we might as well go ahead and get married right now. I called my boss and told him I was going to Texas to get married and would be gone 3-4 days.” As they headed out, they stopped in Hope, Arkansas, to tell her mother and dad of their plans, explaining that his uncle was the pastor at the First Baptist Church in Shepherd, Texas, and he wanted him to perform the ceremony. Promising to take good care of Pat and receiving the blessing of her parents, they proceeded on their journey to Texas. With a little laugh, Pat recalls she had to drive because Harold had had just a touch too much to drink. Kicking off her high heels for comfort, she drove all the way to Jefferson, Texas, and Harold finished the all-night drive to his parents’ house in Madisonville. Leaving in haste, they had not packed extra clothes and were still in their party attire. According to Harold, “My dad came out and saw the youthful Pat with no shoes on and was quite concerned I had driven her illegally across state lines AND that she was shoeless. My response, ‘Dad, people in Arkansas don’t wear shoes!’ Well, we got everything cleared up, and my parents were fine with it.” They obtained their marriage license in Huntsville and were married three days later, on June 15th, in Shepherd by his uncle’s assistant since his uncle was unable to attend. After a two-day honeymoon in Galveston, it was back to work in Arkansas.
We’ve covered the “love” aspect and now have the commitment, hard work, and adventure ahead of us, and adventurous it has been for these two lovebirds! Adventurous, yet not always easy. Through the next few years, they lived at various times in hotels, a house, and a travel trailer with each work or family situation dictating the living abode–but the love and commitment always prevailed. Harold continued to work in jobs relating to the pipeline, while Pat poured her life and love into raising five children: Becky, Jeff, Melanie, Dawn, and Leslie.
For the births of their first three children, no matter where they were, and within only days of the due date, Harold and Pat would pack up the car and head to his parents’ home in Madisonville. When this occurred for the birth of their third child Melanie, it was a drive from Washington state with two small children, then a drive back to Washington two days after giving birth. As daughter Dawn states, “Mom, you are a trooper!” They eventually moved to Madisonville and were living there for the births of Dawn and Leslie.
Harold and Pat were never ones to turn down a person in need. When a job move took the young family to Iowa a week after the birth of their second child Jeff, they found themselves needing to care for a sick friend. The friend slept in the bed while Harold and Pat slept on the sofa bed in the living room with their newborn and toddler. Pat cooked for the friend’s special diet as well as their own meals and cared for the needs of a toddler and newborn.
On another occasion, a move to New York was necessitated for a six-month job. It was the Christmas season, so a U-Haul was packed up with all their personal belongings, including the Christmas tree and all the trimmings. The long, snowy drive was made with five kids, a small dog, and a friend. A hotel served as their home during this stay, and when the family Christmas dinner was served, guests included 2-3 neighbors who were without their families. Strangers don’t stay strangers long in the presence of the Wells.
While in New York, three of the children were school age and attended Niagara Falls 95th Street School. Being from the South, the kids were made fun of for the way they “talked funny,” and therefore were presumed to be less educated. They quickly dispelled this myth by excelling in their classes and winning a spelling bee. Now the northerners wanted to know what their secret was for being so smart! Pat’s time and meticulous attention to their education was the secret. She also made sure they had a hot meal each day, so when the lunch period began, the kids would come home to enjoy chicken fried steak or some other favorite and would bring some delighted friends along for the feast.
In addition to being a wonderful cook, Pat enjoyed decorating the home and sewing the children’s clothes. When an outfit was needed the following day, it was ready and waiting for the occasion. Whether dresses, cheerleader outfits or other attire, Pat made sure the kids were well-dressed. Through all the challenges growing families bring, she would selflessly provide the needs at each stage with the positive attitude she is still known for. Pat is not one to slow down so, in her forties, she took up running 6-8 miles per day, even winning a 10K in Huntsville. She enjoys nature, books and reading her Bible.
Harold’s last welding job was the Alaska pipeline in 1975-76, after which he became construction manager for several Colonial Pipeline projects in Atlanta. In 1979, he ran the Gulf Interstate Pipeline Inspection Division in Houston before serving as Vice President of Universal’s Pipeline Inspection Division for twenty years. He later started Wellsco and Houston Field Inspection Company and in 2016 established the pipeline inspection division of Cleveland Integrity Services, where he is still working today at 92 years of age. “Harold loves being with people,” Melanie shares, “and the more people the better! He is known for his integrity and for being a true friend, and his friendships span the globe.”
When asked the secret to a 70-year marriage, Harold and Pat both agree treating each other with the same love and respect as God treats them is the key. In fact, treating everyone in this manner brings success and a wealth of friendships and blessings. They thank God for their family (including 15 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren, and for each and every day they are blessed to enjoy. And it’s no surprise Butterfinger ice cream pie is a family favorite!