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Steamboat flight nurse had passion for helping others

Brent Boyer
steamboat springs correspondent

Some people spend their entire lives in search of a career that gives meaning to their existence. Jennifer Wells had hers figured out at age 6.

Raised on her family’s farm outside of tiny Stratton, Wells reveled in the opportunity to help her mother raise her younger siblings and nurse injured and ailing animals back to health.

It was that passion for helping others that led Wells to a career in nursing.

“She was a very caring person, and I think nursing was part of who she was,” said Rhondda Wells, Jennifer’s mother-in-law.

Wells, a flight nurse, was en route to Rawlins, Wyo., to help transport the victim of an automobile accident when the Yampa Valley Air Ambulance crashed into the side of a snowy ridge. Wells, pilot Tim Benway and air ambulance director and flight nurse Dave Linner were killed in the accident.

Wells, a small-town girl with a big heart, died doing what she loved – helping those in need.

“She liked helping people who were in the gravest danger,” said Christina Smelker, Wells’ mother.

After graduating from Stratton High School, Wells left her parents’ wheat, corn and cattle farm to attend the University of Northern Colorado, where she earned bachelor’s degrees in community health and nursing. She was an emergency room nurse at Greeley’s North Colorado Medical Center before she began working at Yampa Valley Medical Center last summer. Wells and her husband, Adam, kept a residence in Greeley though they were considering a move to Steamboat Springs.

She recently was offered the chance to become a flight nurse with Yampa Valley Air Ambulance, an opportunity she coveted.

“She always talked about being a flight nurse,” Rhondda Wells said. “She loved trauma medicine.”

Wells, 30, was a wonderful wife, daughter and sister, family members said Thursday.

She loved spending time outdoors, particularly running, hiking, fishing and hunting. She and Adam spent a lot of time together outside of Kremmling, where Adam worked for a time as a fishing guide.

Wells also enjoyed returning to the family farm, where she could relax in the peace and quiet of rural life and the company of family and friends.

“It was just a place where she could come and find peace,” her mother said.

“She was a beautiful woman. Jenny was just so special.”

A funeral service for Jennifer Smelker Wells is at 10 a.m. Monday at St. Charles Catholic Church in Stratton. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Jennifer Smelker Wells Memorial Fund in care of First National Bank of Stratton, P.O. Box 286, Stratton, CO 80836.


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