Sylvia H. Wells, 83, of Jenkintown, an executive secretary and dedicated church worker, died Friday, Sept. 29, of cancer at Abington Hospice at Warminster.
Mrs. Wells learned secretarial skills while in high school. She served as an executive secretary for officials at Temple University and in the Cheltenham School District before retiring in 1996 from the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit.
Her husband, David B., said she liked everything about secretarial work. She was good at it because she enjoyed dealing with people. "Everybody she met loved her," David Wells said.
Mrs. Wells was the oldest of three children born to Florence Jackson Henry and Wilson J. Henry Jr. Born in Abington Memorial Hospital, she lived in La Mott, a historic African American community in Cheltenham Township named for abolitionist Lucretia Mott, whose home was a stop on the Underground Railroad. Black soldiers trained there during the Civil War.
She was baptized at La Mott A.M.E. Church and was confirmed at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Philadelphia and later transferred to St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Germantown, where she worshiped until her death. St. Barnabas and St. Luke's merged in 1968.
Mrs. Wells graduated from Cheltenham High School in 1951 and continued her education at Penn State-Ogontz and Fisk University in Nashville. She had planned to become an English teacher, but took a job as a secretary, which took precedence over college.
In September 1956, she married David Wells. The couple reared two sons in La Mott.
Mrs. Wells was known for enjoying life to the fullest, her family said in a tribute.
She was a longtime member of the Altar Guild at St. Luke's and enjoyed serving as a lector, one who reads aloud the lessons during church services. She also served on the Opus Dei Committee, which means "the work of God."
The Rev. David J. Morris, the church's pastor, said Mrs. Wells worked on the committee to contact shut-ins by letter or phone so they could maintain a relationship with the church community despite being unable to leave home.
She was a greeter at the church door on Sunday mornings. "She had such a charming smile," he said. "If someone was new, she introduced them to someone in the congregation who would help them through the service. She was a charming person, and she's going to be greatly missed."
A dedicated 15-year volunteer at the Abington hospital, she participated in the medical center's Poppy Bear program, which uses stuffed animals to soothe children's fears of going to a hospital.
Mrs. Wells and her husband enjoyed traveling up and down the East Coast. They also spent many vacations in Aruba, the Bahamas, and Avalon, N.J.
In addition to her husband, Mrs. Wells is survived by sons Steven D. and David B. Jr.; four grandchildren; and nieces and nephews.
The funeral will be at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 7, at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, 5421 Germantown Ave., Philadelphia, Pa. 19144.