Wells - honorary grand marshal
Although Cecil Wells has ridden in many past Williams parades, on Sept. 2 she will don a new role — honorary grand marshal of the Labor Day Parade.
"I’ve been a lifelong resident of Arizona and a resident of Williams for 54 years," Cecil said of her longtime association with the town.
She was born Cecil G. Kuykendall in Tempe on Dec. 7, 1918.
"Back then Tempe was just a small town about the size of Williams," Cecil recalled.
She grew up the second oldest of seven children and received all her schooling in Tempe. Cecil also attended Arizona State Teacher’s College there for two years where she studied commercial and secretary courses. After that Wells worked on a Chandler air force base until her marriage on Aug. 20, 1943 to Frank Evarts Wells Jr. Evarts was in the Navy, so the couple married on his three-day leave. They spent their honeymoon visiting Cecil’s family in Coolidge, then visiting Evarts family in Williams. This was Cecil’s first trip to Williams.
"I’d grown up in desert country all my life," she said. "The scenic mountain beauty of Williams was something I immediately fell in love with."
She and her new husband then moved to the Air Station in San Diego. While stationed there during the war, sons Ken and Brent Wells were born.
After the war, the family took up residence in Williams. Evarts started work at the family-owned newspaper the Williams News while Cecil became active in the community. Sons Dennis and Douglas were also born, completing the family of four boys.
Cecil was a 4-H community leader for four years, active in the Parent Teacher Association, Sunday school teacher for the Episcopal Church and helped long-time friend Ruth Cureton start the first kindergarten in Williams. At that time there wasn’t one offered in the public school system, so the women opened a private kindergarten charging six dollars a day.
There are two clubs Cecil is still involved in. She has been a member of the Williams Volunteer Women’s club for about 25 years and a member of the Williams Republican Women’s club for almost as long. She has served as an officer in both organizations.
"It was 4-H I loved the most," Cecil said, "I was a farm girl growing up so 4-H was like the center of my social life."
Cecil said she knew what to expect when she took over as community leader of the Williams Mountaineers 4-H club.
In fact, during her junior year of high school Cecil was chosen to go to the National 4-H conference in Chicago. It was her first time out of Arizona.
"All four of my boys were very involved in livestock," Wells said. "The boys raised mostly cattle. Back then they had room.
"We used to also raise chickens and had three barns."
It was in the early ’60s that Cecil quit working at the kindergarten to work at the Williams News full time. She started off writing for the paper. Her husband died in 1979, and Cecil took over as publisher with son, Doug. She kept this job until her retirement in the late ’80s. Cecil now enjoys spending time with her seven grandchildren, and one great-grand daughter. She also enjoys working on her yard and staying active in the community.
One of the highlights of Cecil’s life occurred on her 80th birthday when U.S. Representative Bob Stump presented her with an American Flag, which had flown over the U.S. Capitol Building.
"I was very surprised and honored," she said about receiving the flag. "There are a lot of women in Williams who, like me, have devoted their time to help volunteer around town."
The rodeo parade, a non-motorized event, will be just one of Williams’ Labor Day weekend activities built around the Professional Cowboy Rodeo Association events staged here Sept. 2-4. The rodeo is part of the Turquoise Circuit, which includes Arizona and New Mexico. Cowboys from all over will be coming to Williams to compete.