Richard E. Wright

Richard E. Wright

December 14, 1926 – October 3, 2020

“When a great man dies, for years the light he leaves behind him shines on the paths of men” Henry Wordsworth Longfellow

The American Dream is thought of as the belief that anyone, regardless of where they were born or what class they were born into can attain their own version of success in a society where upward mobility is possible for everyone. The American Dream is achieved through sacrifice, risk-taking and hard work. Dick Wright embodied the American Dream and was an archetypal representative of the Greatest Generation. His life was a testament to the characteristics associated with this generation of heroes including personal responsibility, duty, honor, self-sacrifice, hard work and humility. More than this, he was naturally happy, charismatic, optimistic, and funny. He continued to joke and have fun all the days of his life even when his health and memory became less reliable.

Dick was born in 1926 and was a survivor of the great depression. He spent the early years of his childhood living with extended family members in Northern California. Dick’s grandfather would make homemade wine and he would regale us with stories of crushing grapes with his bare feet and getting wine for the dinner table (often sampling a little bit to make sure it was OK).

He moved to Elko when his mother Alyce Saffores married Judge George Wright and was adopted into the Wright family in 1937. He fell in love with Elko and his new family right away. He embraced his new cousins, and they quickly became like brothers. He maintained a close friendship and connection with his cousin Jim Wright throughout his life. Their friendship was marked by laughter and a fondness that could be felt by everyone. Dick loved to tell stories about work on the ranch, haying by hand, swimming horses across the Humboldt river to come to town and playing pranks on each other all the time.

Dick attended Elko High School until he was old enough to enlist in the military in 1943. He spent most of his time in the military deployed in the Philippines helping to maintain aircraft and support the war effort in that theater. He fell in love with aviation and would go on to become a private pilot and aviator when he entered civilian life. He was known as an excellent pilot and used his plane for work and fun for over 50 years.

After the war he attended college on the GI bill and studied gunsmithing at Lassen Community College. While studying and living in Susanville, he met the love of his life, Leona Millsap. He was able to persuade her to move to Elko shortly after they were married in 1951. After moving back to Elko, Dick and Leona opened Champion Motor Co. on Idaho Street across from the courthouse (where Roy’s Market is now). The early years at Champion Motors were difficult but rewarding. They would often reminisce about the difficulties of this time, but it brought them closer together. They turned their success into Wright Motor Co. in less than a decade. Most people will associate Dick with Wright Motor Co. which he owned and operated with Leona and his son, Dave for nearly 50 years. They poured their hearts and souls into the business and they made it successful with blood, sweat and tears.

Dick was dedicated to his family and went above and beyond to provide for all our wants and needs, often with a little twist. He loved to plan little pranks and then surprise someone with exactly what they wanted.

Dick was an avid outdoorsman, hunter and fisherman. He loved going on hunting and deep-sea fishing trips with friends and family. He was always up for an adventure. Back in the days when we had more snow throughout the winter, he was an avid snowmobiler and champion racer.

He loved animals especially horses, dogs and cats. He was also uncommonly lucky, winning frequently at poker at the Elks lodge, and more than once winning a jackpot on a slot machine after only putting in one coin. He would just grin and shrug his shoulders as if to say “why not!”

Dick loved Elko and was an advocate for our community to anyone who would listen. He was a Past Exalted Ruler of the BPOE (Elks) and supported the local 4-H, FFA and various other local clubs and groups.

He loved to eat a good meal, especially a good steak with a glass of red wine. He loved to joke and laugh and was rarely without a smile on his face, which is how we want you to remember him. He was soft spoken and led by example. He worked his whole life to make our community a better place.

For many of you reading this, it will seem like the end of an era, and it is…. However, let us use his life as a roadmap to help us through these difficult times. Dick faced adversity and disappointment throughout his life, but he always found a “work around”. He never gave up on himself or on our community. He would tell us to work hard, believe in yourself and remain optimistic. Even when it seems like failure is imminent and all is lost, do not give up. Life is filled with challenges and disappointments and it is still possible to have fun along the way. Even when the road is bumpy do not lose hope, keep going, you never know what is around the next bend in the road.

Dick is predeceased by his father and mother, George and Alyce Wright, his wife Leona and his son, David. He is survived by his daughter, Karen (Brad) Martin, Juliann Wright, Jay and Glynnis Wright and family, Jeanna (Chuck) Verro and family, Doug, John, Sue, Charlie and Audrey Wright, Steve and Mavis Wright and family, and Pam (Dan) Sieg.

We would like to especially thank Shonna Wilcox and Denise Clark who helped care for him in the last 7 months of his life. Without their help, we would not have been able to care for him at home in accordance with his wishes.

A funeral will be held on December 14th at St. Joseph’s Church in Elko at 10:00 am. It would have been his 94th birthday. The church will also stream the service on for those who cannot attend or choose not to, due to the pandemic and associated restrictions.

A celebration of life will be held next summer at the Jiggs Bar, tentatively scheduled for July 17th 2021, so mark your calendars and save the date. We hope all that knew and loved him will be able to attend and celebrate the life of this wonderful man. In lieu of flowers, should you choose to honor his memory with a financial donation, please donate generously to the Jiggs Volunteer Fire Department 435 Jiggs Hwy. Unit 9, Jiggs, NV 89827.

Published by Elko Daily on Nov. 24, 2020.

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