Long-time orchardist and nurseryman Joseph Roelle Van Well died April 12 at the age of 85. He was a co-owner of Van Well Nursery in East Wenatchee, Washington, and managed the company for 60 years.
Van Well grew up in Wenatchee and after graduating from high school served as a corporal in the U.S. Army’s antiaircraft division during World War II. After the war, he attended Gonzaga University.
In 1946, he helped found Van Well Nursery with his father and brothers. He also operated his own orchard in East Wenatchee. If a worker was laid off at the nursery, Joe would immediately rehire the person to work in his orchards, the family recalls. He treated his workers like family and tried to help them out when they needed it.
He served on the Greater Wenatchee Irrigation District Board for so long that he received a pension from the state of Washington. After he refused to take the pension for two years, the state just sent him checks every month. Joe would endorse the checks and drop them in the box at the Holy Apostles Catholic Church, of which he was a founding member.
He was an extremely hard worker, the family recalls. When an irrigation line needed fixing, he was the one at the bottom of the hole. When trees needed planting, he worked the shovel and let others operate the tractor.
He leaves two sisters, Kathleen Van Well and Lorraine Adams, three brothers (Dick, Peter, and Tom Van Well), nine nieces, and three nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents and brother Jack Van Well.