Photo by Jamie Alexander
Born in 1955 on the west end of Owensboro, Jack’s light always shone bright. From a young age, Jack impacted those around him with his work ethic, entrepreneurial spirit and charitable mindset.
The foundation for his career as an entrepreneur was laid in the laundry room at Hermitage Nursing Home on West Parrish Avenue, where a fifteen year-old Wells earned $1.25 an hour on his first job. While most teenagers simply revel at the thought of their first paycheck, Wells saw an opportunity for something greater in that part-time job. When I interviewed Jack for the first issue of Owensboro Living in 2013, he remarked, “I started working that job in 1970, and it lasted….well, still to this day.”
That teenager in the laundry room went on to own that same nursing home, along with thirty other nursing homes, in what became Wells Health Systems. At its height, the company employed 3,700 workers, and was the largest of its kind in the state.
After selling his healthcare company, Jack formed Riverfront JAM, LLC in 2010 with his business partner, Matt Hayden, for the purpose of purchasing properties in downtown Owensboro. In that same 2013 interview, Jack said, “I wanted to be a part of the revitalization of downtown [Owensboro]. My personal vision is to create a living destination for downtown, encompassing art and events, and creating fun, great shopping, great food, and an overall environment where people want to live.”
Over the next seven years, Jack saw that vision come to life. The downtown properties purchased and developed by Jack’s company became the new Boardwalk Pipeline office building, the Holiday Inn Owensboro Riverfront, and the Enclave at Riverfront Living, among others. Beyond developing downtown Owensboro for others, Jack was also a part of the downtown landscape, with his offices at 100 West Second Street, and making his residence on the top floor of The Enclave – which he graciously allowed Owensboro Living to feature in our March 2020 issue.
Even with all his success, Jack continued to advocate for Owensboro, and did everything in his power to make his city a better place. Pastor Jim Wells, Jack’s brother, remarked at the Celebration of Life that “Jack had fire in his belly. He was energetic. He was always on the move. He always had another idea. He was always looking for another opportunity.”
And while Jack’s hard work and success were evident, he was also intentional about treating every day like a holiday. At the Celebration of Life held on August 8, 2020 in memoriam of Jack, Kirkpatrick also recalled a student at an event asking Jack what he did for a living. Jack’s response, “I’m living the dream.”