Remembering Larry Wells and the PVCS Class of 1996

I learned of the death of Larry Wells, a young man who I had the great privilege of teaching at Pine Valley in the 1990’s, via the local news and social media. Later this afternoon, I will attend his wake at a Forestville funeral home. I’m writing today to remember him as I knew him, not as the victim of a violent crime as has been widely reported.  Larry Wells 8th grade

When I was a young, first year teacher at Pine Valley Central School in 1990, Larry Wells was a member of my seventh grade class. As a Spanish teacher in a small district, I then taught that incredible class for four years to follow. If you’ve never attended or taught in a small rural school district, I’m guessing it may be hard to imagine what it’s like.

The students know each other, and all of us as the adults working with them, extremely well. I remember entering those classes with my teaching materials on a cart as I taught in various classrooms and had hardly a clue as to what I was doing. Clutching my college notebook, I greeted my seventh graders with the best that I knew–and it wasn’t enough. They were an energetic, close knit handful and I didn’t yet have the skills to teach them well. Luckily, I attended some excellent staff development training early on where I learned cooperative learning techniques. I returned to school the next day, took each class out into the hallway and said to them, “what I’ve been doing wasn’t good enough. From this day forward we’re going to re-enter that classroom and try something new”. They became accustomed to my efforts through four years of classes with me (what a privilege to teach them for four solid years!) and would often remark, “oh no, she’s been to another conference, here we go!”

This was quite a crew, heavy on boys who couldn’t have cared less about learning Spanish. They were all about football from long before I taught them in seventh grade and eventually the boys went on to win the Class D, Section Six Championship. Larry Wells was an integral part of this class and that team. When considering my teaching strategies, I tried anything I could think of to connect my content to football–including elaborate peer tutoring ‘games’ for review that I linked to football.

Larry Wells was one of the best of the bunch. And his wife, then girlfriend Jill Lucas, was too. Larry and Jill were bright, friendly, caring and involved in everything. They were never in trouble, the class couple, devoted to one another. Mostly they joined me in laughing along at the antics of their classmates. Who could resist the humor of Richie, Max, MJ, Michael, Brent, Shawn, Justin or Tim?! Josh Roth and Larry Wells were never at the center of it, but they certainly enjoyed the fun as much as I did. And Jill was blessed with a great group of girls in that class too–girls who were about the only thing that kept that bunch sane.

Larry and Jill

I miss that class. I’ve never known a group of students better or hoped more for them. In my mind’s eye, they’re all just the same as they were ‘back in the day’ at Pine Valley. And something like what happened to Larry should never have happened. Not to him. Not to any of them.

Working in education for 24 years now, I’ve suffered the tragedy of losing students. The loss of Larry Wells to his family, to his coworkers, and to his friends is devastating. For the family that we were as a faculty and the Class of 1996, we grieve too.

All of my love, thoughts and prayers to Jill Lucas Wells and Larry’s loved ones. You are not alone, we stand with you in honoring and remembering one of the best kids I’ve ever known, Larry Wells.

  1. This is the first time that I reading this. There isn’t a day that I don’t think of the teachers and fellow classmates especially when it comes to Larry. NowI don’t know what he was like in class after I was held back a year, but when I finally came over too the high school I saw that he was always goofing around and having fun with anyone who came in contact with him. And if a student was giving another student a rough time he was usually one of the first ones to step in and standup for the other student. Larry had a great respect for the students and the teachers at Line Valley. Jill you were lucky to have him for as a boyfriend, husband, and best friend for long as you were able to. My only wish is that it could’ve been longer.

  2. Just reading this old post, but I am right on time because the thought of Larry is never far away…

    Those were special times with many special people. We were in our own little pocket of the world.. And it was perfect! I’m glad you were part of our lives the same way I’m glad Larry was a part of my youth. Many things change and people come and go, but I will always look back at those days and your Spanish class and smile. It, and all of you, will forever be with me.

  3. Great story and one that’s so common. Small town and seventh grade I can identify as a teacher and a student. This is the best, most human story I’ve encountered today. Thanks for sharing it.

  4. Mrs. Moritz, I was with the class of 1993, while 2 years ahead of Larry, I too remember the antics of his classmates, his love for football and the incredible gal that would become his wife. Teachers like you, are the reason that all of us that walked the halls of Pine Valley, can hold our heads a little higher. Thank you for this touching remembrance.

  5. I was quite a bit younger but only remember Larry and Jill together and always so happy. Kristin is right. The world is a darker place without someone who seemed to only bring good. My thoughts and prayers to Jill and all of their family.

  6. I remember Larry and Jill very well I went to school and graduated with them … He was an outstanding Football player and not to mention if I remember correctly that we had the BEST football team that year ….. It saddened me and shocked me to hear of his death …. I can’t even imagine what Jill is feeling or going through my prayers go out to Jill and family and Toys R Us Employees ….. I hope they get that scumbag that took a very nice guy away from his family it won’t bring Larry back but it will be closer for everyone…. Idk if I will ever go into that store again ….. { RIP Larry} you will not be forgotten….

  7. I remember Larry and Jill really well I went to school with them and graduated with them….. I am saddened that this tragedy had to occur and in a Toy Store no less … Idk if I could ever bring myself to go back in the store now…. I hope they catch the scumbag because he took a very nice guy away from his family not to mention his high school sweetheart my prayers are with Jill and her family and Toys R Us Employees …… Soooooo incredibly sorry for your loss…

  8. Thank you very much for writing this. I was in that class with those gentlemen and I remembered looking forward to your Spanish class every day. You did everything possible to try and make the learning fun and enjoyable while working through all the nonsense we were pulling. Yes, Larry and Josh were never the cause of the antics, but they did thoroughly enjoy the entertainment along with the rest of us! As I am older now and look back at my middle/high school days, I realized how blessed I was to be surrounded by so many friends and educators who truly cared and hope that my own children will be just as blessed throughout their educational journey.

  9. I have just found out about Larry the other day. I’m saddened even though we weren’t friends. I may not have been the most popular or well liked in the class of 95, nor probably, the best remembered as i left for randolph junior year. I do remember every single one of the people i had grown up with from kindergarten until the end of 10th grade. I hope Jill stays strong and keeps the memory of a good man close to her heart. Mrs. Moritz… you were an awesome teacher even being brand new. as soon as i saw this article i wanted to reply to let you know that so many years later you made a huge impact on all of us.

    muchas gracias por todo lo que has hecho.

  10. I came into PV in 10th grade and remember Larry welcomed me with no question. him and Jill were the class couple that were always together on our senior trip where one was the other was soon to follow. He was a great guy and will be missed by all

  11. Kim You were at that time & now one of the best teacher/friend that those kids had. Larry was a great kid, thank you for your kind words.

  12. Mrs. Moritz, this is AMAZING! Those boys loved and still do love you so much! Still to this day, Michael tells stories of back then and your name seems to always come up in the mix. 🙂 After hearing of Larry’s passing, I pulled out all my old photos I had from the “good old days”. There they all were in every picture.. Together and smiling.. Most with that crooked, I am up to something smile (which made me giggle). I remember Larry, even though he was a couple years older than I, to always be smiling and laughing. One of those “Senior boys who kicked some major butt on the football field”. They were praised and idolized. For those who did not have the privilege of knowing him would never understand that this world is a bit darker without him in it. However for those who did… I know would definitely say that is the case! Thank you again Mrs. Moritz for this amazing story.

  13. Thank you Mrs.Moritz you were by far the favorite of our whole class and taught us more than just Spanish..

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