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Alumni Happenings - August 2007
Grand County High School

 



Kammy Holyoak, Dennis Wells,
GCHS Class of 1981, 1983
by Jeff Richards

For Dennis Wells and Kammy Holyoak Wells, returning to their home town after being away for over 17 years was something they’d long planned to do.

High school sweethearts Kammy (Grand County High Class of 1981) and Dennis (Class of 1983) were married in 1984. They are the parents of six children, five of whom are living.


Dennis and Kammy Wells in 2007
Oldest son Shay graduated from high school in Eureka, Nev. and recently received a bachelors degree in criminal justice from University of Nevada at Reno. He’ll be heading to Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash. this fall to attend law school. Second son Trace graduated from GCHS in 2004, starring on the football, wrestling, and baseball teams. He’s now a senior at Southern Utah University in Cedar City, and is studying to become a high school teacher and coach. Oldest daughter Kemrey graduated from GCHS in 2007, excelling in track and volleyball. She also was the Sterling Scholar in English, and will soon be attending Utah Valley University in Orem, where she plans to major in elementary education. The family’s fourth child, Kensey, passed away in 1995 when she was four months old. The two youngest Wells daughters are Kayley and Kwincey, who will attend Helen M. Knight Intermediate School this fall, in the 6th and 4th grades, respectively.
“It’s the first time in a while that we haven’t had any kids in high school,” said Kammy. “It will be interesting.”
Although the whole family has been staying together in Moab this summer, the oldest three children will soon be moving back to college.

“It’s been fun having everyone around,” said Kammy. She and Dennis recently drove to California and spent a few days in Disneyland with their daughters, as sort of a graduation present for Kemrey. It was a rare getaway for the self-described “workaholics,” who also enjoy fishing, camping, and waterskiing during their limited spare time.


Kammy and Dennis at a high school Sadie Hawkins dance
Thinking back to their high school days, Kammy says she was initially teased by her friends for dating a boy two years her junior. “But he was the quarterback, and I was the head cheerleader and homecoming queen – isn’t that how it’s supposed to happen?” she joked.

Even so, their first date wasn’t exactly romantic – they attended the Clint Eastwood film “Any Which Way You Can” at the local theater, when Kammy was a senior and Dennis was a sophomore. “Dennis’ dad actually had to drive us there because Dennis didn’t have his license yet,” Kammy laughed.

After her graduation, Kammy attended Utah State University in Logan while Dennis finished high school. In 1984, shortly after earning her associates degree in business administration from USU, Kammy and Dennis were married. The newlyweds then moved to Texas for a few months, then back to Salt Lake for several more months.

At that point, Dennis decided he still wanted to play college football, so they moved to Cedar City, where he walked on the team at Southern Utah State College. Kammy gave birth to Trace in Moab, then joined Dennis a couple weeks later in Cedar, where they made their home while Dennis attended school.


Kammy Holyoak her senior year
“I didn’t have a scholarship at first,” recalled Dennis, adding that the team offered him a scholarship about three games into the season.

Dennis had to juggle multiple jobs during college. At one point, he had Kammy audiotaping some of his lectures for him so that he could review them later during his shift as a security guard. He also worked as an insurance telemarketer and mentored an eight-year-old boy with behavior problems.

By his senior year, he was also assistant coaching wrestling and football as part of his student teaching. Meantime, Kammy was at home raising three young children, having just given birth to Kemrey.

Dennis graduated from SUSC in 1990, majoring in secondary education (physical education) with minors in history and special education. Although they had a house in Cedar City, they were unable to find a teaching job.
“There were coaching jobs, but no teaching position to go with them,” said Dennis, noting that a similar situation existed years later as he contemplated returning to Moab. “I was approached over the phone and offered a coaching job [for the Red Devils] as early as 1994,” he said. “But there wasn’t a teaching position to go along with it.”


Dennis Wells his senior year
After graduating in 1990, Dennis paid a visit to Eureka, Nev., where his parents were then living. He intended to try for a mining job there, but instead found an opening for a teaching and coaching position at the local high school. He got the job, and for the next few months, he saw his family in Cedar City on Sundays (Nevada high school football games are played on Saturdays), then would make the 4.5-hour drive back to Eureka early Monday morning, arriving at the school parking lot just in time to teach his first class.

A few months later, they managed to sell their home in Cedar, and in early January 1991, the whole family moved to Eureka, where they ended up staying for 12 years.

While in Eureka, Dennis helped coach the Vandals to several state titles in various sports, including seven wrestling championships in a row. The football team also took state twice and were runners up twice. They also won a baseball title.

Then, in 2002, the year Shay graduated from Eureka, Dennis was offered a job teaching and coaching at GCHS.

Now entering his sixth year as GCHS football coach, Dennis is looking forward to the upcoming season, which kicks off with a home game vs. the Logan Grizzlies Aug. 17.

Dennis admits his first couple years at the helm were a struggle. The Devils were winless in 2002, won two games the next year, then three the following year. But then in 2005, the Red Devils went 9-2 and took the football state championship, the first in the history of the school. “Winning that trophy made it all worthwhile,” said Dennis. Last year, the Devils went 8-3, losing in the playoffs to eventual champion San Juan. This year, Dennis expects the Red Devils to be strong contenders yet again.

“It just took a while to teach them how to win,” said Dennis, who also coaches wrestling and track at GCHS. “We’ve learned how to be competitive.”

Kammy is the daughter of Gary and Patricia Holyoak, who live next door to the Wells family. Gary, a lifelong Moab resident, graduated from GCHS in 1956. Pat, a native of the Price area, was elected last year to a four-year term on the Grand County Council, her first foray into politics.

All of Kammy’s siblings attended GCHS, and two still live in Moab (Ryan Holyoak and Kelsie Backus). Three other siblings live out of state: Jamie Robinson (Texas), Amber Spence (Las Vegas), and Dalin Holyoak (Washington, D.C.). Another brother, Clynn, is deceased.

Dennis’ parents, Dennis and Gladys Wells, moved to Moab when their three boys were starting grade school. Dennis is the oldest, followed by Donny, then Darrin. All three played multiple sports for the Red Devils. Darrin lives in Moab and helps Dennis coach football, while Donny now lives near his parents in Woodland Park, Colo.
Dennis and Kammy have many fond memories of former teachers, including Gene Leonard, Donna Brownell, Al Heaton, John Fogg, Ron Pierce, Ron Olsen, Tom Till and Bernie Radcliffe, to name a few. “Many of our teachers also ended up teaching our kids,” said Kammy. “Mr. Leonard even taught my dad.”

Dennis and Kammy say that watching Trace (top all-around athlete) and Kemrey (head cheerleader, top athlete, homecoming queen, star of the school musical) excel at GCHS gave them a sense of déjà vu.

“That’s part of the reason we came back, is so that our kids could follow in our footsteps,” said Dennis. “We’ve always been Red Devils at heart, and we wanted our kids to be Red Devils.”

Back in high school, Kammy did cheerleading, drill team, and was the homecoming queen. She also participated in band, chorus, and FHA. Ever the cheerleader at heart, Kammy has only missed attending three of the games Dennis has coached over the past 17 years. “I’ve never missed a home game, but I did miss a couple of away games when Kemrey was playing volleyball,” she said.

In high school, Dennis weighed just 140 lbs. as a freshman, but was the Red Devils’ starting quarterback all four years. By his senior year, he was wrestling at 167 lbs. and was the state champion his junior and senior years. His junior year, he broke his wrist and couldn’t play baseball that spring, so he ran track instead and established a school record in the 100 meter dash that still stands (10.95 seconds).

Dennis was the only two-time state wrestling champ from GCHS until he coached heavyweight Zane Taylor to three straight titles from 2004-06. Taylor, a lineman, was also instrumental in helping the Devils win their first football championship.

Dennis says the school’s spirit is feeling like it used to be back when he and Kammy were in school. “To tell you the truth, I was a little disappointed in the first pep assembly I attended after we got back,” he said. “But I thought, I’m here, I’m the coach, I want to fire up the crowd. I took the microphone, and then everyone started singing the school song with me. It really brought back old times.”

“Our school spirit has come a long way since then,” added Dennis.

Agreed Kammy: “It’s amazing what winning the football championship did for the community’s school spirit – everyone is a lot more excited.
 
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