W. Ernest Wells, 86; was choirmaster

W. Ernest Wells
W. Ernest Wells
Posted: January 08, 2013

W. Ernest Wells, 86, a retired choirmaster and organist who enjoyed entertaining friends by playing show tunes and hymns on his Baldwin upright piano, died Tuesday, Jan. 1, at the Gwynedd Square Nursing Center in Lansdale.

His daughter, Christina Jane Lennox, said her father had been in poor health since suffering a stroke two years ago. He had most recently lived in Ambler.

In pursuit of his lifelong love of music, Mr. Wells left his home in Birmingham, Ala., when he was 17 to attend Westminster Choir College in Princeton, where he earned a degree in choral music. He then completed a master's degree in music from Temple University.

For more than 20 years, he was choirmaster and organist at Christ Church and St. Michael's in Germantown, where he met his future wife of 45 years, the former Jane Davis. She died in 2003.

The couple lived in Germantown and Roxborough, where they raised their daughter and son, John, who died in 2005.

From 1958 until he retired in 1978, Mr. Wells was director of music and a teacher at the William Penn Charter School in East Falls. The Quaker school recognized his devotion by naming him an honorary member of the Class of 1689, an award reserved for those who have shown extraordinary commitment to students. His daughter said the blue Penn Charter beret he was presented with would be placed in his casket.

After leaving Penn Charter, Mr. Wells embarked on a second career in the marketing department of Independence Blue Cross. He also served as choirmaster and organist for more than 30 years collectively at the Memorial Church of the Good Shepherd in East Falls and the Episcopal Church of St. Jude and the Nativity in Lafayette Hill, Montgomery County.

He composed and arranged music and wrote a songs for family members, including his granddaughter, Christina Jane Campbell.

Although Mr. Wells was raised a Southern Baptist, he became an Episcopalian when he moved North.

He enjoyed gardening, arranging flowers, doing crossword puzzles, and baking.

In addition to his daughter and granddaughter, Mr. Wells is survived by a brother, sister, and several nieces and nephews.

Friends may call at 10 a.m. Monday, Jan. 7, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 708 S. Bethlehem Pike, Ambler. Services will begin at 11 a.m. followed by interment at George Washington Memorial Park, 100 Stenton Avenue and Butler Pike, Plymouth Meeting.

Donations may be made to the Salvation Army, 701 N. Broad St., Philadelphia 19123, or to Trinity Episcopal Church, Ambler.

Contact Martha Woodall at 215-854-2789 or martha.woodall@phillynews.com.

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