Ralph Connell Wells
Published 3:37 pm Tuesday, December 19, 2023
Ralph Connell Wells, 79, of Andalusia died Dec. 15, 2023.
He loved his family, his hometown, and baseball in equal measure. Born in Andalusia on March 23, 1944, Ralph was the second of three sons born to Grover Ashton Wells Sr. and Orene Wells. Ralph played Little League, Babe Ruth and high school baseball while growing up in Andalusia. He walked on to Auburn University’s freshman and varsity baseball teams, and by the end of his college career had earned a full scholarship and a reputation as a third baseman. Auburn Coach Paul Nix said in 1966 that Wells was the best at his position in the league.
At least part of his motivation for succeeding in baseball was competition with his older brother, Ashton Wells Jr., who played baseball at the University of Alabama. In later years, the two brothers enjoyed watching their grandchildren compete against each other in local leagues.
Ralph was the only Auburn Tiger in his class recruited by the pros. He signed with the Atlanta Braves in 1966 and earned All-Star status in their training leagues. The U.S. Army interrupted his baseball career in 1967 when he was drafted for service. Both of his brothers also served in the military.
While he was serving in Vietnam in 1968, his mother mailed him baseballs and a glove so he could keep his arm in shape. Consequently, he rejoined the Braves organization in 1969. After the first season, the Braves offered him a job as the assistant business manager of the Shreveport Braves, an apprenticeship of sorts designed to teach him the ins and outs of a baseball operation.
At the end of the 1970 season, he realized the job was not for him. Even though his baseball career ended, for all of his life he remained close to many of the coaches and players he befriended at Auburn and through the Braves.
Relying on the business degree earned at Auburn, he returned to Andalusia and worked for TPS Distribution Center, later CARQUEST, for 37 years. His duties through the years included salesman, sales manager and business and market development manager. The job afforded him the opportunity to travel and meet and make many new friends.
In 1974, he married Barbara Sue Sweatt Wells, and together they reared two daughters, Kristen and Kimberly. His brothers also reared their families in Andalusia, and the lives of the Wells progeny were closely intertwined for three generations. He was as proud of the accomplishments of his nieces and nephews as he was those of his children.
Ralph and Sue spent their retirement years perfecting the roles of “Papa and Mimi,” attending their grandchildren’s church, school and athletic events, and spoiling them as much as their daughters would allow. He was looking forward to the birth of his first great-grandchild.
If you were fortunate enough to be his friend, you had a special nickname by which “Raph” called you and could count on always being greeted with a warm hug or a firm handshake.
Wherever life took him, his love for Andalusia was unwavering. He often said he was born, reared and educated in the city, and was given many opportunities because members of the community took time to teach and lead him. By 2012, he was ready to give back. He was elected to the Andalusia City Council in 2012 and reelected in 2016 and 2020. He called it the “honor of his life” to represent District 4. He was especially proud of the city’s solid financial position, and the infrastructure improvements and reinvestments in downtown made during his tenure. When he stepped down from his council seat earlier this year, the mayor and council voted to name its new batting facility in Johnson Park in his honor.
He was preceded in death by his parents; his brother, Grover Ashton Wells, Jr., and a niece, Katherine Wells.
He is survived by his wife of 49 years, Barbara Sue Sweatt Wells; two daughters, Kristen (Russell) Wiggins and Kimberly (Keith) Dienstl; seven grandchildren, Riley Grace (Mason) Kelley, Maggie Ruth, Jack, Mollie Jae, Pitt and Ella Grae Wiggins, and Kolten Dienstl; his brother, Dr. Mike (Maria) Wells; sister-in-law, Katy Sue Wells; nieces and nephews, Ashton Wells III, Amanda (John) Lanier, Maria (David) Pezzoli, Daniel (Laura) Wells, John (Kelly) Wells, and Sarah (Sonny) Maynor; and a host of great-nieces and great-nephews.
The family received friends at Foreman’s Funeral Home on Sunday, Dec. 17, from 5 until 8 p.m. Services were held Monday, Dec. 18, 2:30 p.m., from First Baptist Church, where Mr. Wells was a member all of his life. David Pezzoli officiated and Aubrey McKee sung. Two of Mr. Wells’ granddaughters, Riley Grace Kelley and Maggie Ruth Wiggins, provided the eulogy. Graveside services with military honors followed at Andalusia Memorial Cemetery with Bro. Jack Armstrong and Bro. Garrett Davis officiating.
Pallbearers were John Luke Colvin, Andrew Clark, Elgin McMeans, Jacob Bryan, Jayce Smith, Walt Cook and Logan Cook, friends of his grandson Jack, most of whom played on his last baseball team.