Richard Wells of Exploits Islands, Notre Dame Bay, passed away recently (I don’t have the exact date – sorry). He was the unofficial (self-titled) “mayor” of the resettled community of Exploits Islands for many, many years. When the community resettled, he was one of the very few who remained, along with his long-time partner Lydia Budgell.
While I only met Richard a handful of times and those only when I was pretty small (we live on the other island and didn’t visit much), he always struck me as quite a character and was one of the icons of Exploits for all the time I’ve been going down there. I vividly remember not being able to understand a word he said, so thick was his accent and so unaccustomed to it was I. I also remember being told by a pair of tourists that they wanted to have their picture taken with him but couldn’t, because, “It cost $5 and he wouldn’t take a cheque.” They didn’t realize he was thoroughly pulling their legs. (Although he would have taken the money, I’m sure!). He had a tremendous sense of humour, a strong sense of his place in the world and was a wealth of historical information of varying scope (and sometimes accuracy!). In short, he was “a character.”
He was also a huge part of the continuity between the old community and the new and he will be missed.
For those interested in learning more about the man, there’s a fascinating M.A. Thesis (I believe it was a folklore work) by William Clouston Butt at the Centre for Newfoundland Studies in the Memorial University Library entitiled, “Richards Wells: A Newfoundland Storyteller and Aspects of his Storytelling (1987).
Safe travels, Richard. You won’t be forgotten.
Anyone wishing to send wishes to Lydia can do so at:
Canada A0G 1L0
(Campbellton is a small enough place that a street address isn’t required.)
Funeral to be held at the Pentecostal Church in Campbellton on February 13, 2011 at 2pm. Captain Bettylou Toppings presiding. Messages can be faxed to (709) 261-2330 or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org