On July 17, we lost one of our own.
A Topanga homegrown, Jeffrey (Jeff) Welles died peacefully in his sleep while surrounded by his family after a courageous and hard-fought battle with brain cancer. Jeff leaves behind a big and very close family. He is survived by his three children, Brady (21), Sophie (19), and Riley (18), their mom Cindy, née Welbat, Welles, his parents, Harvey and Terry Welles, sisters Jennifer deSpain and Laura Adel,l and their families Mike, Cody, Blake, and Jackson deSpain; Zack, Dax and Deacon Bezner; Abigail and James Adell.
More than 300 loved ones gathered at the Topanga Community House on August 4 to share stories with laughs and tears, and to celebrate Jeff’s all too short, but very full life.
Jeff was born January 5, 1968, and four years later, his parents moved their family from Granada Hills to Topanga Canyon in December 1972. Harvey had discovered Topanga when he decided to take an alternate route home from work one day and both he and Terry instantly fell in love with the Canyon’s charm and beauty. The Welles family lived on Short Trail for a couple of years, then moved to their home on Entrada Road where Harvey and Terry still live today.
Jeff went to the preschool co-op at the Topanga Community House and, along with his sisters, attended Topanga Elementary School. He went to Lincoln Middle School and to Parkman Junior High School (now Woodland Hills Academy), where he first met his future wife, Cindy Welbat, and remained friends through high school. Jeff graduated from Taft High School in 1986.
As a child and teenager, Jeff loved to skateboard, fish, surf, go off-roading in his Baja Bugs and dirt bikes, and simply run amok in the canyon with his best friend and partner-in-crime, Andy Hoff. He had his first job at Fernwood Market when Tom and Joan deSpain owned it, and later worked at the Topanga Lumber Yard. Jeff left the Topanga Lumber Yard to work for a local contractor building and remodeling homes and ultimately became a licensed contractor himself.
In 1992, when Kauai was devastated by Hurricane Iniki, Jeff moved there to help rebuild the island. He enjoyed his time on Kauai. When he was not working, he surfed and explored the Island’s natural wonders. His life life on Kauai, however, was cut short by the death of his grandfather 1993. He came home for the funeral and never went back.
Shortly after returning home, Jeff and Cindy resumed their friendship and began dating. They both were raised to believe—to know—that nothing was more important than family and they were both eager to create a family of their own. Jeff and Cindy were married in 1995.
Jeff was an involved, engaged, and dedicated father. He consistently sought out, created and took advantage of opportunities to spend quality time with his children. He shared his love for camping, surfing, and fishing with them and, as Sophie shared at his memorial, even took them “creeking” on occasion in Topanga Creek.
While Jeff was busy raising children, coaching and cheering for their soccer, baseball and football teams, he was also helping to build an international software company. When he returned from Kauai, Jeff left construction and joined his sister, Jennifer, working for their father at InvoTech Systems. Jeff’s roles and responsibilities varied throughout the years. He started as a software systems installer and trainer where he learned about the business operations and needs of the clients. He rose through the ranks from Director of Sales and Marketing to Vice President to eventually become President. Jeff helped design the products and forge the relationships that InvoTech came to stand behind and can be proud of today.
Despite being a successful and a well-respected executive in his career, Jeff’s Topanga roots never left him. Nor did his commitment to his family. His weekends and evenings were mostly spent with his kids, parents, siblings, nieces, and nephews, celebrating holidays and birthdays, traveling, BBQing, watching the Raiders and the Dodgers, hiking in the Canyon, attending his kids’, nieces’ and nephews’ sporting events, dance and theatre performances, concerts, and taking them camping, surfing, fishing, and skiing. And, yes, dancing in the dirt with them all at Topanga Days. While Jeff’s life was cut incredibly short, he lived a very full productive, successful life full of family, friends, laughs, tears, and most of all love.
Jeff’s family was incredibly touched by the outpouring of love and support they received from people who attended his memorial. The emotional energy was palpable, and it truly reflected the strong sense of community we are blessed with in growing up in Topanga.