Portraits of Peace House History: Bob Wells (1943 – 2015)

A Champion for Peace House

Bob Wells

This year marks 25 years of Peace House serving survivors of family violence and abuse in Summit and Wasatch counties through shelter, support services, education and outreach. As part of our 25th Anniversary Year, each month we are spotlighting some of the many individuals who have shaped Peace House history. Throughout the year, we will be honoring and commemorating all those who have supported the life-saving and life-changing work that Peace House has offered our community over the past 25 years.

The former Peace House Executive Director, Jane Patten, describes Bob Wells as “a quiet powerhouse in our history.” This is a common sentiment echoed by other long term friends of Peace House who all emphasize, when asked about Bob Wells, that the organization would not be where it is today without him.

Bob Wells moved to Park City in 1971 in the capacity of newly appointed Chief Financial Officer and trusted advisor for the Stern family’s development company, Royal Street. The Stern Family had just purchased the Park City Ski Resort and were in the process of acquiring the land that would become Deer Valley Resort in 1981. Bob met Patti upon his arrival in Park City, and she became his wife of more than 40 years. The couple were active during an exciting and vibrant time in Park City history, as the old silver mining town was transformed into a world-renowned ski town. Tina Lewis, a longtime friend of Bob’s and a fellow City Council member, summarizes Wells’ contribution as setting “Park City on the right path to success.”

Bob played a critical role in overseeing Deer Valley’s development and was responsible for much of Park City’s growth in the 1980s. He was equally committed to finding ways to improve and empower the community that he helped develop. He was elected to City Council, chaired the Planning Commission, and served on other boards in support of responsible growth and addressing concurrent community needs. Bob Wheaton, former general manager of Deer Valley, portrays Wells as someone who “kept his ear to the ground … he had an innate understanding and ability to identify the needs in the community … and the energy and the smarts to figure out how to get it done.” He was known as an innovator and collaborator who found solutions that were beneficial to all parties. Tina Lewis describes Bob’s skill and strategy as “putting together intellectually what needed to happen to make things change.” Bill Coleman and Tina Lewis, two of Park City’s formative leaders, both recount stories of participating in heated meetings where consensus seemed impossible, and in which “Bob looked like he was asleep,” but then would suddenly open his eyes, quietly recap the problem at hand and propose a solution that was mutually satisfying for all parties involved. Bob’s wife Patti remembers that “when Bob spoke, everyone listened. He was succinct and to the point.”

The “Bob Deal

It was no surprise that Bob would be part of the solution when he became familiar with the Domestic Peace Task Force (DPTF) and their efforts to establish an emergency shelter in the community to serve local survivors. At the time, Bob was working with the City and the local ski resorts to implement and ensure affordable employee housing. Bob had a creative idea to meet multiple, disparate housing needs in one initiative. He developed and negotiated a deal that ultimately provided Deer Valley with an employee housing opportunity in Daly Canyon, and the DPTF with starter funding and a shelter site, contributed by Royal Street, across the street from the Police Station on Marsac Avenue in Park City. The deal leveraged resources from Bob’s newly founded nonprofit ICHTOS, later known as Mountainlands Community Housing Trust, to help finance the project. Bob Wheaton, a close friend and work associate at Deer Valley, called this a “Bob Deal,” meaning that everyone came out a winner. The shelter would be called Peace House.  

1995: Peace House Shelter Opens

Peace House officially opened in the spring of 1995 and represented the first safe house at an undisclosed location in Summit and Wasatch counties serving families escaping abusive relationships. The small, five bedroom shelter accommodated up to 15 residents and provided safe housing to victims for up to 30 nights. The shelter launched with only one paid employee on staff, the Executive Director, and with the support of dozens of volunteers committed to the Peace House mission. The shelter filled up almost immediately upon opening. It quickly became evident that Peace House required a larger staff and budget to meet the need for services. Committed donors and local groups, such as the Park City Board of Realtors, provided funds through fundraisers and generous gifts to keep Peace House staffed and running. 

By 2007, the organization had seen substantial growth and was becoming more established as a nonprofit. That year, with the support of Bob, the Domestic Peace Task Force purchased the shelter from Mountainlands, after managing it for 12 years. In 2008, the Domestic Peace Task Force merged their name with that of the shelter and became known simply as Peace House. Peace House outgrew the “Little Red House,” as the shelter on Marsac Avenue was affectionately called, by 2010. It became clear that the shelter was simply not large enough to accommodate the growing demand for services. The executive director at the time, Jane Patten, looked to Bob for direction and another creative solution. 

Bob assisted Jane in putting together a Facilities Committee of seasoned local professionals, including a real estate lawyer, a land planner, and several developers, who were well connected in the community. Bob walked Jane and the Facilities Committee through the strategic steps required to negotiate another housing deal. With the support of Tanger Outlets, Intermountain Healthcare, and Summit County Council, the Committee was able to secure a property, the initial funding and the required permits to build a new community campus to function as a local hub for domestic violence services and resources. 

Peace House and Park City Lose a Guiding Light

Bob Wells tragically died in March of 2015 after a two-year battle with cancer. [1] His passing was not only felt deeply by his family, but by a community that had come to rely on Bob’s direction and wisdom. Tom Clyde, former City attorney, refers to Bob as “an absolutely incredible person.” Bob Wheaton fondly describes Bob as “his best friend” and as “quiet, understated, worked hard in the background. He certainly never sought out or enjoyed any recognition or limelight … His awards were internally looking at the changes and the positive direction that he was able to help guide.” Although Bob did not seek recognition, he was the recipient of many awards, including Park City Rotary Citizen of the Year in 1987. Bob’s immense contribution to Park City was recognized posthumously through a unanimous City Council vote to name the area just below City Hall “Bob Wells Plaza.” Bob’s wife, Patti, noted that the plaza’s simple and functional design reflected Bob’s personality well. [2]

Tina Lewis remembers many community organizations and nonprofits that benefited from Bob’s time investment, as he volunteered his skills and resources to revise budgets and improve financial strategies. Bob found great pleasure in empowering organizations and individuals to be successful. His brilliance and commitment not only impacted Park City’s evolution but the quality of life of its residents. For example, Bob was responsible for instituting Park City’s free public transportation system. 

Lessing Stern of the Stern family, who “felt blessed to have worked with Bob for almost fifty years,” remembers how “Bob had an amazing ability to see the greater good in any situation, and quietly went about making it happen.” That ability paved the way for Peace House to open the first domestic violence shelter, which granted life saving support and healing to the most vulnerable members of the community. He was instrumental in lending direction and support to Peace House in the next phase, as Peace House sought to expand the shelter and offer survivors more comprehensive support services. Bob’s wholehearted support of the Peace House vision helped bring to fruition the new Peace House community campus. The community campus opened in September of 2019, offering an expanded shelter, transitional housing, legal advocacy, case management, clinical therapy, childcare and sexual assault services to survivors of abuse. 

Bob Wells was truly a champion for Peace House. As an organization, we honor Bob, and the others who worked alongside him, who gave generously of their time, talents and resources to ensure survivors of domestic violence have safe shelter and access to support services within their own community. 

Researched and written by Karen Marriott
Edited by Lisa Jackson
Photos provided by Wells Family

Bob and Patti Wells with daughter Kelly , Rob Wells with family and friends at the dedication of the Bob Wells Plaza, Bob in recent years, Bob as a young man.

1* Bob Wells Obituary

2* Bob Wells Plaza