Influential California Builder Gene Wells Passes Away

Gene Wells, an award-winning builder and industry leader, passed away on July 17 in Roseville, Calif., succumbing to a long battle with pancreatic cancer, heart disease and other ailments. He was 79.

Wells began his career in the Sacramento area in the late 60s excavating pools. Always ambitious, it wasn’t long before he moved into all aspects of construction, eventually starting Aquarius Pools in 1969. The company would quickly develop a reputation for innovation and was a perennial recipient of multiple national design awards.

Long time friend and associate, Phil Gelhaus, chairman of Sacramento’s FPSIE Inc. remembers: “Gene was very much a visionary and a dreamer. He could visualize something and then articulate his thoughts into a design. He eagerly tried new ideas and concepts. Like all creative people, some of his ideas failed at times, but he was adept at learning from failure to make an even better product or pool from the lessons learned. Gene’s big personality translated into every thing he tried and he always expected a vey positive outcome. He hired and trained hundreds of employees, many who became master technicians within his company, and others who went on from Aquarius Pools and started their own companies.”

According to his son, Rex Adam Wells, who is carrying on his father’s tradition working in the pool and spa industry, “People looked up to him. He carried himself with a lot of pride and great confidence, but he never looked down on anyone and was comfortable in any situation. He studied everything and tried to improve and elevate the industry. He also helped many people get started with their own companies. He was always willing to help and share his knowledge.”

Wells was known for his forward thinking when it came to technical innovation and refinement. He was an early adaptor of automatic pool cleaner technology, and his company was on the cutting edge of pool/spa combination designs and hydraulics. “He was one of the first people insisting on dual main drains,” his son recalls. “He was deeply involved in safety and was trying to prevent suction entrapment accidents before anyone was talking about the problem.”

Gelhaus remembers fondly watching his friend take home design awards year after year and how his success influenced his peers. “Gene’s success bringing home the hardware inspired other Sacramento pool builders to up their game,” he recalls. “That competition had some amazing results and for a long time, Sacramento builders became the envy of builders and designers around the world during the roaring 90s.”

Wells is survived by his daughter Aleta Wells and son Rex, his brothers, Tom and Rex, three grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

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