Jack T. Wells, 65, a major player in Owensboro’s economy for decades, died Sunday.

“He leaves a big hole in the community,” Mayor Tom Watson said of his friend of 40-plus years. “To know Jack was to love Jack. He was always upbeat. You don’t meet many people like that.”

Wells started his career working in the laundry room at The Hermitage long-term care facility for $1.25 an hour when he was 15.

He later bought The Hermitage and built a chain of health care facilities that was at one time the largest long-term health care company in Kentucky with more than 3,500 employees.

A decade ago, Wells teamed with developer Matt Hayden and the two began redeveloping downtown and other parts of the city.

They built the new Boardwalk Pipeline Partners Building, the Holiday Inn Riverfront, Alorica Building and Enclave at Riverfront Living downtown, bought Towne Square Mall and the old Texas Gas property at 3800 Frederica Street and began redeveloping them.

“Jack was great at everything — friend, generosity, businessman, entrepreneur,” Hayden said Sunday. “I really thought he would win this fight with his health challenge because that’s what he always did, win.

“His heart and success continued to help so many, especially helping to move Owensboro forward. He was bigger than most understood, but he kept true to his roots in Owensboro. I was blessed to have such a great friend.”

Wells turned the top floor of the Enclave, a four-story mixed-use building at Veterans Boulevard and Frederica Street, into a 10,000-square-foot “New York-style penthouse.”

At first, he considered splitting the floor into two 5,000-square-foot condos.

But, he said, “You only live once.”

Hayden and Wells had announced plans to build a $30 million-plus Home2 Suites by Hilton with 120 rooms and 200 apartments across Second Street from the Owensboro Convention Center.

They were partners in Jerry Ray Davis Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, Bar Louie and Envision Modular, a new $25 million Hancock County industry among other things.

Wells was serving as chairman of the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce this year.

“Jack Wells was a tireless Owensboro advocate,” Candance Castlen Brake, the chamber’s president, said Sunday. “Jack loved his hometown and worked behind the scenes to impact nearly every project of significance over the past 30 years. He was a true business genius. He had an innate ability to quickly assess situations and create success in ventures where others could not. He truly had the Midas touch.”

She said, “Above all, Jack was humble and kind. In meetings, he made it a point to listen more than he talked. He engaged everyone and made each person feel important. His gentle and soft-spoken demeanor always brought an air of dignity to any situation.”

Brake said, “The impact of Jack’s loss will be felt for decades. But the impact of the businesses and jobs he created and nurtured will live on. And his role as mentor to countless people will continue to impact us forever. We are heartbroken. We have lost a community giant. And we have lost a true friend.”

In 2011, Wells bought Canteen At Your Service and three years later, added John Conti Coffee to his list of properties.

They soon had offices in Owensboro, Evansville, Bowling Green, Elizabethtown, Louisville, Lexington, Cincinnati, Bedford and Columbus, Indiana, and Dayton, Celina and Waverly, Ohio.

The Kentucky Secretary of State’s office lists Wells as sole officer of JTW Executives Inc., president of Wellington Parc Health Systems, president of Wells Health Systems, chairman of the Owensboro Museum of Fine Art, sole officer of Affiliated Reinsurance Co., a member of Concept Land Development, Lab Leasing LLC, JTW Florida Properties, JT Wells Florida Holdings, Wayjack Ventures LLC and South Seas Investments.

He is also listed as president of Jack’s Properties, Jack Wells Inc. and Med Source Plus, a member of South Seas Holdings and Riverfront Ventures., a director of Wells Health Services, Green Acres Health Services, a member of GAHS LLC, Park Regency Senior Services, Riverfront JAM and Canteen Properties and an incorporator of Salsarita’s Fresh Food, Owensboro Fresh Food and Derringer Food Group.

Wells was a former board chairman of Kentucky Wesleyan College, from which he graduated in 1977.

An article in the college’s magazine in 2015 quotes him as saying, “I’m from Owensboro. I grew up with not a lot of money, not a lot of anything. Anything I’ve achieved is certainly a blessing to me and my family. My father always said, ‘Every tub sits on its own bottom.’ That means you own what you are.”

Wells has also chaired the boards of the Elizabeth Munday Senior Center and Hospice and Palliative Care of the Ohio Valley, and served on the boards Girls, Inc., Republic Bank & Trust, Owensboro Health and Independence Bank.

He was a past chairman of the Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities, the trade organization which represents the majority of Kentucky’s nursing homes, and a past member of the executive committee of the American Health Care Association in Washington.

Arrangements are pending.

Keith Lawrence 270-691-7301, klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com

Keith Lawrence 270-691-7301

klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com

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