Talking with Chuck Wells

This is the first of an ongoing series of interviews with members of our fellowship. Each month a new one will appear in the newsletter.  It’s an effort to help us to get to know one another better. Comments are welcome.  – Carol Imani

Chuck Wells portrait

As long as I’ve been coming to services at the fellowship, I’ve had an affection for Chuck Wells. At age ninety-three Chuck is our most senior member, but he also always has a knack for genuinely witty, laugh-out-loud comments, making it clear that nothing gets by Chuck and that he’s fun to be around.  So recently I sat down with him to learn about the rich life he’s had which, without doubt, has helped him to develop that special sense of humor.

Chuck wanted to know why I chose him my first subject for an interview, and said that he and Sally, his wife, concluded that, due to his age, there was “a sense of urgency” about talking with him, but he wanted me to know that it is “unfounded.”  I told him that reminded me of something Mark Twain had said, that “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated” and of course Chuck was acquainted with that Twain quote.   He also said that he attributes his long life to three things: “Good genes, a love of work and activity, and a happy marriage.”

Chuck was born in 1925 (“that was five years after women got the vote and one year after Indians became citizens”) on “a farm which backed onto the Erie Canal near Rochester, New York, but when I was fourteen months old my family came west to the San Francisco Bay Area.  The day before my eighteenth birthday I enlisted in the Coast Guard, and became a sailor at sea with the North Atlantic Ice Patrol.” After that Chuck was at San Mateo Community College and then San Jose State, majoring in education, and minoring in sociology and speech therapy.  He also drove an ambulance in San Francisco, and student-taught in San Francisco’s Chinatown, with third and sixth graders, earning his B.A. from San Francisco State.

When he moved to Marin County he taught in three San Rafael schools where “release time for religious education was mandatory” and he recalls one young student, “acting as if the angels of fury were on his tail, telling me ‘I’ve got to go to cataclysm.’“ He also said that, “in order to enjoy the luxury of a public school salary, which back then, in the mid-50’s, was $4,800 a year,

I had to make ends meet by also teaching part time at another school.”  So, apparently, very little has changed since the 1950’s in terms of how underpaid teachers are.

A unique teaching experience came along when Chuck got a job with the Bayview Schools at San Quentin Prison in San Francisco. “That was a time” he says, “when we were trying to rehab people”. Chuck found that he liked working with adult prisoners.  He recalls one in particular, who was raised in a black Alabama orphanage and decided to start over. He started in the first grade, and worked his way through the grades, graduating as the school’s valedictorian.  In his speech he explained that inmates had the choice to be free in their minds while physically prisoners, and the guards were both physically and mentally prisoners while on duty because they had to be continually focused on the inmates.

Chuck was married at twenty-five in the San Jose Unitarian church. He and his wife Marie had two sons. In 1958 he was offered tenure at a school where he was teaching “but I turned it down because I wanted to move to San Jose because we’d met some good Unitarians from there at the Unitarian conference in Carmel.”  In San Jose he taught seventh grade, a class of “educable mentally retarded” students; however, “about half the students were Latino kids who had nothing wrong with them mentally.”  When he told the school counselor that he felt it was “a crime against those kids” to combine them with kids with mental disabilities and to not be taught separately the response was “I can put them in a class with forty-six other kids, but I figured you could do more with them.” So those students stayed in Chuck’s class. “They were a great bunch, and I hated to leave them at the end of the year.”

Around that time Chuck’s wife became the secretary at the Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley, which trained future Unitarian ministers, so they moved to Berkeley, and Chuck experienced what he describes as “a mid-life crisis.”  After deliberating over the law, the ministry or continuing in education, a solution presented itself in the form of a masters program in adult education and human resource management at UC Berkeley, and “I took off like a rocket there”. That led, subsequently, to a job offer with the National Iranian Oil Company, in southern Iran, for the next three years.  His marriage ended after coming back to the States. He met Sally. They married and went off to Tripoli in Libya, working for Mobil Oil for 1 ½ years, and “we had a wonderful time in a beat up Land Rover exploring the desert and sea coast.”  That was followed by three years, again with Mobil Oil, in Sumatra, Indonesia, which was “also wonderful, though we were moist all the time, since we were only three degrees above the equator.”

Finally the world travelers decided it was time to return to the United States, specifically the American west, and “we bought an abandoned ranch outside of Chiloquin” and were there for thirty-five years.  Their most important adventure was creating the non-profit Chiloquin Visions in Progress and raising $1,750,000 to build what became a beautiful and much-needed community center, housing a branch of the Klamath County Library and the Two Rivers art gallery.

Five years ago when it became apparent that the ranch was requiring more time and attention than they wanted to give, they moved to Klamath Falls and turned their attention to all kinds of community efforts here, including involvement in the Unitarian Fellowship.  When asked about what he values the most in our fellowship Chuck says “That it grows deeper all the time.  It’s a refuge where you can refill your spiritual tank for the coming week. And there’s also just getting to know the UUers and experiencing their spiritual journeys, as well as the growth

of the board, its breadth and depth, in an effort to provide leadership consistent with our principles.”

Archives JanUary 2019

For my December 9th program,”We never hide from history, we MAKE history”, (Sen. John McCain), I had a lovely closing, from Spring UU WORLD-2014, a piece by Indian poet, Rabindranath Tagore, a Nobel Prize for Literature winner.

When finalizing preparation for that Sunday, I concluded no way
could I end by reading it aloud. Please understand—I know you will.
In follow-up, I’ll share it here in the New Year.

As I tried to emphasize that Sunday, this fellowship has 61 years of making history in this area.
Allow me to share this from a memorial for Aretha Franklin: “It’s a poignant reminder of what we’ve lost, but more importantly, it’s a reminder that greatness is always within our grasp—and that history teeters on a knife-edge, with fear on one side and hope on the other.”

There’s some thought for the New Year-2019.

GOOD WISHES! HAPPY NEW YEAR

Church Chronicles

If you are Jewish, feel free to wish me “HAPPY HANUKKAH”.
If you are Christian you can wish me, “MERRY CHRISTMAS”.
If you are African American/Canadian, wish me a, “JOYOUS KWANZAA”.
If you have no affiliation you can wish me, “HAPPY HOLIDAYS”.

Whatever the expression I’ll not be offended.  It will be the thought that you cared enough to wish me well.   Whoopi Goldberg put it thus:  “We are many things”.  And as David Hedelman shared:  “We all are we”.
 
In this holiday month do keep your sense of humor, count your blessings, and GO JOLLY!!!!!
                               Barbara Turk

Join our Board of Directors

Nominating Committee
This Spring, we will have two openings on our Board of Directors. The process for selecting new board members is that a Nominating Committee, composed of three members, nominates a slate of candidates for the congregation to vote on. Would you be willing to serve on the Nominating Committee? 3 month commitment January-March. MORE INFO

We are part of the Whole!


Solstice Meditation


Thursday, December 20th at 7:00 pm

Step away from the holiday bustle and enter a time of silence, song and reflection on the Winter Solstice.
The Taize style of meditation involves simple melodies repeated over and over in a prayerful way, interspersed with periods of silence. Our Taize-inspired service is open to all people regardless of your faith tradition, or no faith tradition.
Join the event on Facebook

Jensen’s Farewell Party

Sunday, December 16th at 9:00 am [NOTE TIME CHANGE]
We are sad to announce that the Jensens are leaving Klamath Falls, but we are happy for Julie, and her new job as president of Blackburn College in Illinois! Let’s wish Eric and Julie, Madeline and Mia well as they set off on this new chapter of their lives. 
Join us for a farewell breakfast before service. Please bring a potluck dish to share. Kids are welcome: we’ll have a special Christmas craft activity for little ones during the farewell party.

Jensen Family

Solstice Meditation

Thursday, December 20, 2018 at 7 PM – 7:45 PM
Step away from the holiday bustle and enter a time of silence, song and reflection on the Winter Solstice.

The Taize style of meditation involves simple melodies repeated over and over in a prayerful way, interspersed with periods of silence. Our Taize-inspired service is open to all people regardless of your faith tradition, or no faith tradition.

November 2018 archives

                        NOVEMBER 2018 ARCHIVES

The 2018 Spirit Awards have lovingly been presented.  In June the Rev. Patt Herdklotz received hers, followed in October by our own Eric Jensen, and UU/Community friends Paula and Dwight Long.

Our member Scott Wagner was remembered September 22nd by KF family and friends.  In October first-responders in Santa Clara County, CA held a memorial for Scott. Joyce and Justine attended.  Scott was an EMT and fire fighter in his career.

Oregon has a new poet laureate, Kim Stafford, and he has a close connection to our UUFKC.  Kim follows in his father, William’s footsteps as poet laureate. Kim taught at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, as did William.

William was a poet and pacifist and in1970 became twentieth Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, now known as U.S. Poet Laureate.

Kim an essayist and poet, is additionally responsible for sorting untold boxes of William’s unpublished poetry, private papers, publications, photographs, recordings, teaching materials for Lewis & Clark’s library Special Collections and Archives. No small task.

Kim’s wife is Perrin Kerns, daughter of Ben Kerns. Ben was one  of the founders of UUFKC, and a guiding light until his demise. In by- gone-years, when visiting family in KF, Kim spoke to our fellowship.  

October 13th Lou and I marched with the Rogue Valley UU Fellowship in Ashland’s Gay Pride Parade. Definitely a highlight, almost akin to the Portland Women’s March of 2017, and truly encouraging for warm response given RVUUF banner & marchers.

Diane Triana and Mark London say, “HI” from Brentwood, CA.

THANKS to Barry Gumburt for his meal-assists for the Wagner family during Scott’s illness. Barry is a former UUFKC board president, and now seeks the Buddha’s way.

Sandi Geer was  diagnosed last May with Psoriatic Arthritis.  After months of enduring pain she had a major fiscal pain.  In August she learned her one-a-week shot @ $500 would no longer be covered by insurance. Acupuncture helped, somewhat.  CHEERS to Sandi.

November 9-10, 2018 is 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, ”Night of Broken Glass”, in Germany and Austria.  Jews were killed and their property destroyed. Too outlandish to have happened?? History IS repeating itself in the mass incarcerations, with no human dignity,  of asylum seekers, and families separated. UU Principle One: The inherent worth & dignity of everyone.

                    We jump from an 80th to a F I R S T.

          Happy FIRST Birthday to Master Raelond Johnson.  

               HAPPY THANKSGIVING  TO ALL