April 6, 1930 – Nov. 6, 2012

James P. Wells, a retired teacher and police officer, died Tuesday in his Town of Tonawanda home after a long illness. He was 82.

A Buffalo native, Mr. Wells, graduated from Buffalo Technical High School and from Buffalo State College with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education.

He served in the Air Force during the Korean War.

From 1956 until he retired in 1985, Mr. Wells was a teacher in the North Tonawanda School District. He taught math and social studies to seventh- and eighth-grade students at Felton Grammar School and social studies at Thaddeus F. Reszel Junior High School.

In addition, Mr. Wells was an officer with the New York State Parks Police in Niagara Falls from 1961 until he retired in 1992. He worked there primarily on the weekends and in the summer, his family said, and was involved in several rescues at Niagara Falls, including one person from the brink of Niagara Falls on Sept. 4, 1965; two park patrons at Prospect Point on Dec. 18, 1987; four people from a boat stranded near the brink of the falls on May 28, 1988; and five French swimmers when they attempted to swim near the brink of the falls on July 28, 1990.

Mr. Wells received a meritorious service award from the New York State Legislature for Outstanding Service above and beyond the call of duty for his role in the rescue of 29 people from a capsized tourist raft in the Whirlpool Rapids in Niagara Falls on Aug. 29, 1975.

For his military service, Mr. Wells received the Korean Service, Army Good Conduct, National Defense Service and the United Nations Service medals.

He was a Democratic Committeeman in the 1960s, a past president of St. John the Baptist Holy Name Society and sat on the board of directors for many years. He was a past president of Mount St. Mary Academy Parents’ Guild and a member of the New York State Police Pistol Team and the North Tonawanda Teachers Union.

A sports enthusiast, he coached Little League baseball and was a lifelong fan of the Bills, Sabres, Canisius College basketball, UB football, Notre Dame and the sports teams of all colleges attended by his children and grandchildren.

Surviving are his wife of 56 years, the former Rita Hurliman; three sons, Patrick, Paul and Seamus O’Brien; three daughters, Margaret, Mary and Maureen; and a brother, Robert.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10:45 a.m. Friday in St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, 1085 Englewood Ave., Town of Tonawanda.