There's no telling where Robert A. Wells' drive came from, Claudia Wells, his wife of nearly 50 years, said Monday.
" I think he was just born with it."
Still, it put Robert Wells in the Berkshire spotlight, being a leader and major figure in the area's financial scene all the way up until his peaceful death Sunday at Berkshire Medical Center. He was 72 years old.
Wells dedicated his life to the financial services industry. In 1977, he was named president of Berkshire County Savings Bank - something that may have been only a dream in Wells' early teen years, because even then he had a interest in the field.
"In eighth grade, he'd go talk to a broker and buy stocks," Claudia Wells said. "He was always interested in the financial world."
Robert - "Bob" to friends and family - Wells led Berkshire County Savings Bank into a full-service bank in 1977. That year, he also facilitated a merger with Great Barrington Savings Bank to form Berkshire Bank, which he would lead until stepping down as chairman in 2003. He participated in the board until retiring completely in 2006.
In addition, Robert Wells served on the boards of the Massachusetts Bankers Association and the Nellie Mae Corporation. His resume also included serving as the chairman of the Board of Savings Bank Life Insurance and on committees of the National Association of Mutual Savings Bank.
In 1992, a car accident paralyzed Wells, and he lived out the rest of his days in a wheelchair.
"It was devastating for us, but for him, he accepted it with such grace," Claudia Wells said. "It was like he turned a page in that chapter of his life. He moved on and never complained. It didn't slow him down."
Berkshire Chamber of Commerce President Michael Supranowicz said Wells was highly respected in the community and cared about everyone he met.
"He was the genuine article, like your best friend the first day you met him," Supranowicz said. "He always made you feel important."
Likewise, the community made Wells feel important on several occasions to honor him. He was the first non-Pittsfield resident to be grand marshal of the Pittsfield Fourth of July Parade in 2000, and he was the 2001 recipient of the Lawrence W. Strattner Jr. Distinguished Citizen Award.
In 2002, the Great Barrington Stage Company honored Robert A. Wells for his lifelong commitment to the Berkshire community and culture.
Jule Boyd co-founded the Barrington Stage Company in 1995, but met Wells in 1993 while she was artistic director for the Berkshire Theatre Festival. She was also recovering from a recent, but much less serious, car accident. They formed a bond through that and through their love for local arts.
"He saw the strengths in a lot of the arts organizations back then," Boyd said. "He was a kind and generous man that believed in the community and went to bat for it the best that he could."
Staff writer Dick Lindsay contributed to this report.