Fay Robert Wells, 82, lifelong resident Le Mars, and former Wells' Dairy chief executive officer, died Monday, June 27, 2005, at Methodist Hospital in Rochester, Minn., following complications of lymphoma.
Fay Robert Wells was born May 20, 1923, in Le Mars, the youngest son of Fred Jr. and Miriam (Ralston) Wells. He began his lifelong career at the age of 16 and spent the next 62 years in the family business, retiring from day-to-day management of the company on Jan. 1, 2001.
Following his graduation from Le Mars High School in 1941, Fay attended Iowa State University, enrolling in the dairy department's creamery operators course. He later served in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II. He married Lucille Bray in 1943. Following his honorable discharge, Fay continued his education at the University of Iowa and earned a bachelor of science degree in commerce in 1949.
In the late 1950s, a partnership was formed between the original founder's sons: Harold, Roy, Mike, Fay, and Fred D. Wells, the son of Harry C. Wells. Fay became president of the company on July 1, 1977, when the company incorporated. In 1990, he was named chief executive officer and chairman of the board. Fay was at the company's helm at a time of tremendous growth for Wells' Dairy and its Blue Bunny® brand of ice cream and dairy products. During his tenure, Wells' Dairy became the largest family owned and managed dairy processor in the U.S., with product sales and distribution in all 50 states and several other countries.
He was also active in leadership and served with distinction within many industry associations. He has served on the board of International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and was past president of the International Association of Ice Cream Manufactures. In 1999 he received the IDFA's highest honor, the Soaring Eagle Award for his leadership and contribution to the dairy industry.
He was also active in his local community. Fay served on the board of directors of Westmar College, First National Bank of Le Mars, the Le Mars Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Western Iowa Tech Community College Foundation. He was honored by the City of Le Mars in 1985 with the Captain of Industry Award.
Fay married Betty Hart Schipper in 1968.
Fay is survived by his wife, Betty of Le Mars; three sons, Gary and his wife, Barbara, Daniel and his wife, Lisa, Douglas and his wife, Ellen, all of Le Mars; a daughter Patricia Minthorn and her husband, Larry of Omaha, Neb.; two step-sons, Scott Schipper and his wife, Debra of Shorewood, Minn., and Mark Schipper of Naples, Fla. Fay was especially proud of his 11 grandchildren: Ben and his wife Anne, Andrew, Jacqui, MacKenzie, Carly, Kathryn, Joe, Sarah Wells, Melody and her husband Edin, Natalee and Huldah Minthorn; three step-grandchildren Mark, Katherine and Elizabeth Schipper; and two great-grandchildren, Finn and Jade.
Fay was preceded in death by his parents, and his three brothers, Harold, Roy and Mike.
Funeral services will be at 10:30 a.m. Friday at the Presbyterian United Church of Christ in Le Mars. The Rev. G. Dean Goebel will officiate. Burial will follow at Memorial Cemetery in Le Mars, with graveside military honors provided by Wasmer Post #241 of the American Legion. A time of fellowship and refreshment will follow the internment at the upper level of the Le Mars Convention Center.
Visitation will begin at 2 p.m. today (Thursday) at the Presbyterian United Church of Christ. The family will be present from 5:30 to 7 p.m. with a prayer service at 7 p.m. There will also be one hour of visitation at the church prior to the funeral service. Mauer -- Johnson Funeral Home of Le Mars is in charge of arrangements.
The family asks that memorials and expressions of sympathy be directed to the Lymphoma Research Foundation, 111 Broadway, 19th Floor, New York, NY 10006.