Katherine Emma Gladney Wells was an American poet, musician, and composer. She was born in St. Louis, MO, with influenza during the pandemic of 1918, but survived. Her parents were Frank Y. Gladney, a lawyer and co-founder with Charles Lieper Grigg and financier Edmund Ridgway of the Seven-Up Co., and his wife, Katherine Graves Gladney. Called Katch, she grew up with her brother Graves Gladney, an illustrator and painter who taught in the School of Fine Arts at Washington University, and her sister Lucianna Gladney Ross, whose interests inclined toward architecture and its preservation and its ability to serve as a window into the history of St. Louis and St. Louis County.
After graduating from the John Burroughs School in 1936, Katherine married Benjamin Harrison Wells in June of 1938 at St. Louis, MO. They had two children, Katherine Graves Wells, born in 1940 and Benjamin Gladney Wells, born in 1943. She became known as one of the great women of the arts in St. Louis and a source of indomitable energy in the community, a beloved cultural and civic leader. In 1972, she was the recipient of the Outstanding Alumnus Award from the John Burroughs School Alumni Association for exemplifying the school’s commitment to service and excellence. In 1980 she wrote Symphony and Song: The Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, the First Hundred Years, 1880-1980.
As a composer, Katherine wrote a short piece entitled “Minor Reflections” that was recorded on the St. Louis Symphony’s “American Album.” Another piece which she composed for the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra was “The Hare and the Tortoise” for solo instruments and orchestra with narrator. In 1993, with the help of Gayle R. McIntosh, she published Symphony and Song: The Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, the Years 1980-1992. Katherine Gladney Wells died, aged 85, at her home in the Central West End of St. Louis on Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 24, 2003, after a long struggle with emphysema.
My collection contains one piece by Mrs. Wells: