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‘A friend to all:’ Remembering Elliott Wells

  • Updated
  • 12 min to read

Editor's note: A scholarship was dedicated in Elliott's honor following the publication of this story. You can learn more and donate here.

Douglas “Elliott” Wells, of Owensboro, died Friday morning, Dec. 18, in his home.

He was 22. 

Wells was a senior at WKU, studying broadcasting and public relations with a minor in journalism writing.

He was very involved on campus, and he was a member of the Kentucky Delta chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon. 

He was active in WKU’s on-campus sports broadcast, the Extra Point. Wells worked for the Herald for several semesters as a sportswriter, covering the soccer and basketball beats.

Wells began an internship with WKU Athletics in the fall of 2020 as a media relations assistant. 

Wells, who his friends remember for his smile and sense of humor, was loved by many. His death has hit every community he touched at WKU hard, including his brothers in SigEp, the broadcasting department, and our team at the Herald.

A GoFundMe to help his family with funeral expenses has raised over $13 thousand as of Monday afternoon.

Wells will be buried in Resurrection Cemetery in Owensboro. The funeral will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 22, at 10 a.m. at Bellevue Baptist Church, according to his obituary.

To honor Elliott’s memory, the Herald spoke with those who knew him. Below are their memories in their own words.

Elliott Wells

Photo provided by Clay Lilla

*****

“I first met Elliott in my second class ever at western. It was a math class and he looked familiar because he was in the fraternity I recently joined. I just sat in the back while he sat in the front. We were at a friends’ house hanging, and he approached me and told me to sit next to him in class. Ever since then, Elliott has been my best friend. Almost every single day of that semester, I would go to his house to watch sports, work on homework, or just to hangout. 

When I would photograph the men’s basketball games, we would always carpool and hangout after the games. Elliott and I loved to travel together. We went on spring break together to Colorado. I’ll never forget the hours of conversations we had together in the hot tub. We flew from Colorado to Dallas together to cover the conference tournament. We sat next to each other at the last NBA game to have a full crowd. 

This semester, we worked an internship together for WKU athletics. We made sure to schedule our office hours together so we could goof off and talk sports with each other. We even scheduled our office hours for the spring semester together so we could spend the time together.

The last time I saw Elliott was on Tuesday and he was just like his normal self, goofy and making jokes. I was scheduled to work the women’s basketball game the day that I heard the news of Elliott’s passing. At first I thought there would be no way I could work the game. I cried more than I ever had in my life that day. But after thinking about it long and hard, I knew what he would have wanted. I worked the game and I am really glad I did, because I know he was watching over me. 

I will never meet a man like Elliott. He was the most honest and loyal person I knew. If I ever needed anything, he would help me with no questions asked. I don’t even know if I would consider Elliott one of my friends, he was like my older brother.”

-Matt Gadd, fraternity brother, former Herald sportswriter and media relations intern for WKU Athletics

*****

“Elliott had a way of making everyone feel like a someone. Whether by giving them nicknames (mine was Herbert, as he often would shout at me to get my attention) or by remembering even the smallest details about people’s lives. He never forgot even the tiniest details, so talking to him really made you feel loved and supported. 

I will never forget how good he was at beer pong and updating me about sports that he knew I didn’t care about just so I could relate to the game on the TV. There wasn’t a moment around Elliott that didn’t leave a smile on my face. We often would skip our PR classes and text each other what we missed, but find that neither of us knew. He really understood our major and would’ve made the best sports commentator or journalist. He had so many skills and talents that were so evident upon meeting him—he had a habit for narrating pong games like it was the super bowl and finishing the game by shooting ‘and he puts it in!’

There’s no words that can capture such a personality and jovial part of our community. Even in three short years, every moment with Elliott will be cherished by me forever. It doesn’t quite feel fair or make any sense, but one thing does—he was loved and loved every one of them right back even more so.”

-Noah Moore, fraternity brother

*****

“I couldn’t tell you the first time I met Elliott because it’s felt like we have been good friends forever. Elliott was one of the nicest, goofiest, and most selfless people I’ve ever met, and I’ve only known him for a little under two years. Whenever we would see each other we would always greet each other with the most exaggerated country accent just because that’s how goofy we were around one another. It was always a blast being in the office with him, Drake, Alec, and everybody else on staff because it was more of us having fun just talking than it was any serious work being done. This year whenever I saw him, the goofiness connection we had was still there, but we ended up talking more about our dreams and goals in life more than anything. 

The day I knew our friendship was more than just a common friendship was on June 2 of this year. I started a petition to get African American studies brought to all schools in my city and asked him to sign it. He went above and beyond and made a whole Instagram post about it, supporting me when he didn’t have to do any of that, and he’s not even from Lexington. When I heard the news of his passing, I didn’t believe it, I couldn’t. I texted him asking if people just had wrong information or if it was just a joke. Realizing it was real, I just went mute and reminisced on all the good times and laughs we shared, while I was on the verge of tears.  

Elliott was always a good friend to me and even while I’m writing this I’m still in shock. I’ve been grateful for these two years of knowing you and I know I’ll see you again someday. Thank you for the impact you made on my life. Love you, bro.”

-Kaden Gaylord, Herald sportswriter 

*****

“Elliott was a friend to all. His humor was unmatched, consistently reminding me to never take life too seriously. I was always so excited finding out we shared a class together, knowing that I’d have someone to help me out with my writing and editing (and get bagels with everyday). However, Elliott was so much more than just a peer to me. He was a loyal companion —  somebody I could call anytime. Whether it was picking me up to get food, going to Cliff’s, or watching Masterminds for the 70th time — he inevitably knew how to make me feel better. It’s going to be weird not having him around. I will forever cherish the wonderful times we shared. Rest easy, Elliott. I love you so much.”

-Grace Wallace, former broadcasting student

Elliott Wells and Grace Wallace

Photo provided by Grace Wallace

*****

“When I first met Elliott Wells, he was a freshman who was still finding his footing at WKU. He had just joined my fraternity, and soon after that, I saw his face again in the Herald newsroom. I couldn’t have been happier to learn that we shared a passion for journalism and broadcasting. 

It took all of five minutes to notice that Elliott had an infectious personality. I can hear his laugh right now. He wouldn’t let you walk past him until he got a smile out of you. That’s what I will remember about him most. 

One night during a finals week he brought some of his journalism assignments over to my house so I could give them a quick look. I really didn’t have time to do it, but I didn’t care because it was Elliott. We ended up hanging out for two hours that night. He asked me question after question about what to expect as a rising junior in college. After he left, I remember telling myself, “That kid is gonna be so good at whatever he does, wherever he ends up.”  

It is beyond my understanding how a person so full of life can leave this world in an instant. 

I know I can speak for all of our brothers in Sigma Phi Epsilon when I tell you that you made an impact on everyone you encountered, Elliott. Love you buddy. Rest peacefully.”

-Evan Heichelbech, former Herald editor-in-chief and fraternity brother

*****

“From the first day I met Elliott in the fall of 2019, he was just another new face to me on campus. He was polite and charismatic toward those he knew and was passionate about the work he was doing in and out of the classroom.

Elliott told me he played soccer and we connected as fellow former high school athletes. When I took some soccer assignments I knew I could ask him anything, and he took the time to intently teach me how to cover a game. He was the kind of reporter you needed and beyond that a friend who wanted to see the best from you.

Seeing him work as an intern in WKU Athletics this fall I knew he’d be on to bigger things upon graduation. The first football game I covered this season he handed me my game meal. Not only did he do that, but he was also intentional asking how I had been since taking over as sports editor. Truly a humble man when I had the pleasure of seeing him on campus. 

Elliott's smile and infectious laugh will be dearly missed and by those he worked with during his time at the Herald. Truly a tragedy that no one anticipated. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

-Nick Kieser, Herald sports editor 

***** 

“Elliott was a tremendous person who is going to be missed by so many. Most of us in Athletic Media Relations got to know him in previous years during his time at the Herald, and we obviously got to know him even better this year as a student intern in our office. He had hoped to pivot his career plans from journalism to working directly in sports – a transition others in this office had already completed and advised him on – and we were all very impressed by the strides he was making toward that goal while working in our office. Him no longer being with us is a lot for our department and Elliott’s fellow student workers to process right now. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of his family and loved ones during this difficult time.”

-Zach Greenwell, WKU Associate Athletic Director 

*****

“I first met Elliott freshman year, when we were partnered in our broadcasting class’ radio lab. Neither of us had any idea what we were supposed to do, so we figured it out together, making plenty of jokes along the way. Ever since, Elliott has been a fixture of my college career. 

Whether it was at a party, the corner of a sorority formal we both somehow wound up at, in the classroom, studying in Mass Media, or finally at the Herald, he always went out of his way to make everyone feel seen.

That’s what I think made Elliott so special: every time he saw you, his waves and smiles were completely genuine. They weren’t just pleasantries. He really was happy to see you, and he made sure he let you know.

Elliott’s death is something I don’t think I can intellectually comprehend, but I think each of us are better for having known him.”

-Laurel Deppen, Herald editor-in-chief and broadcasting student

*****

“One of the first decisions I made during my time as Herald sports editor was hiring Elliott Wells to be my soccer beat writer. I remember joking to some of the other guys on the sports staff at the time that we’d finally found someone who’d give soccer the proper attention and care it deserved, but seemingly never received in years past. Man, was that ever true! Elliott poured himself into every single word he wrote about those WKU soccer games, and it caught the attention of not only the girls on the team, but also head coach Jason Neidell. They loved talking to Elliott, as it was exceedingly obvious that he genuinely cared about them and their stories.

That was Elliott. He really and truly cared about his work, which I thoroughly appreciated. He also cared deeply about everyone who was involved in his personal life. I consider myself extremely lucky to have shared so many lasting memories with him. The two of us developed such a close bond, both professionally and personally, during the time we spent together, and I will cherish those times for the rest of my life. Elliott made me a better editor, a better writer, a better friend and most of all, a better person. He made a lasting impact on me, and I’ll never be able to find the words to adequately describe just how grateful I am that our paths crossed.

Together, me and Doug rode a fan bus to Dallas so we could cover a WKU football bowl game, sat courtside for an entire WKU men’s basketball season and almost an entire WKU women’s soccer season, traveled to Dallas a second time just as the COVID-19 pandemic rocked the United States and spent countless long nights in Student Pubs grinding out print stories and laughing for hours on end alongside the third member of The Big Three, Matt “Tony” Gadd.

Elliott, man, I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that you’re gone. Never in my wildest dreams would I have guessed that the last time I saw you would be the last time I’d ever see you in this life. You were one of the best friends I’ve ever had in my 23 years, and for that I am so grateful. I miss hearing your infectious laughter already, but I know you’ll keep holding it down for the boys back home in a better place than here. Enjoy some Larry’s Pizza for me, hoss cat. I can promise you that no one will ever forget the man they called Skynyrd. And before you even get the chance to ask me – yes, I mean it! To my forever friend, I love you brother.”

-Drake Kizer, former Herald sports editor

Elliott Wells

Photo provided by Clay Lilla

*****

“The first time I heard of Elliott was right before senior year, when I was mostly off the sports staff besides the occasional column. Drake Kizer told me he had high hopes for the new guy he’d hired to cover soccer and I only barely listened, because the soccer beat is almost never filled by the best writer on the sports staff...

After reading his first few stories on the beat, I was convinced Drake had been right. Elliott was a brilliant writer and you could feel his passion for the game with every sentence he put to paper. He became the best soccer writer I ever saw at the Herald and was just as good when he later covered men’s basketball.

Outside of anything related to the Herald, Elliott was a genuinely wonderful human being. He was the funniest person in whatever room he was in, but not the kind of funny that made anyone feel left out.

If there was any justice in the world at all, we’d get to see Elliott be better than all of us in whatever career path he ended up pursuing. This is an unspeakable tragedy. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

-Matt Stahl, former Herald sports editor

*****

“The first time I truly met Elliott was during my first weeks working for the Herald. I was a newcomer with the Sports staff and did not feel as though I truly belonged with the other writers. From our first conversation to our last, I felt not only included by him but also accepted. He was a truly genuine person who had a calming effect on me that helped me settle into a very different world than I was accustomed to. 

I did not know Elliott as long as many other members of the staff, but I could see the joy that he had for his craft and those around him. I count myself thankful for the time I was able to learn and grow with him. I will continue to pray for all those he touched in his lifetime. He will be missed.”

-Jesse Spencer, former Herald sportswriter

*****

“Elliott and I hit it off immediately when he joined SigEp. He had a personality that you just wanted to be around. I talked with him about our future endeavors more than anyone else I knew at WKU and that’s how I knew he had a bright future ahead. I’m just glad I got to know him. I remember back in September he called me asking about where the media entered the football stadium and that question turned to an hour long conversation just catching up on our lives and other things going on. We could talk for hours and wouldn’t get sick of it. He was easily one of my best friends in college and that’s why it’s so devastating cause I know many that knew him feel the same way as well. Looking back, I cherish the memories and conversations that we shared because I know he truly cared about me and my well being. He always knew how to cheer me up and went out of his way to make sure I was included. He was definitely a person that I remember being there for me during some of my tougher times last year. I think we both made each other better students, writers, and most importantly, people. I am definitely a better person as a result of knowing him. My heart and thoughts go out to his family and fellow friends during this time. The memory of Elliott will stick with me forever.”

-Alec Jessie, former Herald sportswriter and fraternity brother

*****

“I am incredibly saddened and shocked to learn of the passing of my colleague Elliott Wells. Elliott brought his sense of humor and bright personality with him everywhere he went. Just this Spring, we shared a journalism class together where he outperformed everyone in the class. We were coworkers at the College Heights Herald and transitioned together over to the athletics department this Fall. Last March, we made the long trip to Frisco, Texas to cover the Conference USA basketball tournament together. He was incredibly dedicated to whatever he put his mind to. My heart goes out to his family in this already challenging time. May he Rest In Peace.”

-Chris Kohley, WKU Athletics photographer and former Herald photo editor 

*****

"No matter the context, Elliott spoke genuinely and thoughtfully. Whenever I had the chance to cross paths with him, he always made me feel incredibly comfortable and understood, as well, which I really appreciate.

I will remember Elliott as someone who was far beyond his age, and I'll also remember him as someone who wasn't afraid to smile. It's hard to think of many people as naturally authentic as he always was, and I feel honored to have known him."

-Griffin Fletcher, former Herald features editor and fraternity brother