What is the meaning of a life well-lived?
The English novelist George Eliot said, “What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?”
Albert Einstein said, “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.”
Whether he intentionally started out that way, or it came to him naturally, over time, the late Harry Wright was a man who accepted tremendous responsibility, had a great sense of humor and spent a great deal of his time shining a light on the needs and concerns of others, in turn making their burdens a little lighter down the road.
Wright passed away Thursday, Nov. 10 at the age of 59.
“He was my best friend,” Kathy Patterson said of Harry, whom she worked with at WCHO radio beginning back in the early 2000’s. “And I was his.”
“I met him there,” said Patterson, who now is a media sales consultant at the Record-Herald. “He did the commercials I would write.”
“He loved to pick on people,” Patterson said. “If he picked on you, you knew he loved you. He was a gentle man. He did a lot of things for people that people don’t realize.”
“One time at the radio station, he found out an FFA kid couldn’t afford an FFA jacket,” Patterson said. “All Harry needed to know was if somebody needed something.”
Harry made sure this young person got a new FFA jacket.
“That’s how Harry’s heart worked,” Patterson said. “He just wanted to help. He was all about community. He had the biggest heart of anybody I know.”
Some other causes of which Harry was fond of working for included helping so that every child would have something for Christmas.
Another cause for Harry was helping fight hunger in the community through local food pantries.
“He wanted to leave this community better than how he found it,” Patterson said. “I think his mission was accomplished, because he did a lot for a lot of people.”
“I first met Harry when he came to the radio station,” said Randy Young. “I’d say it was the late ’90s, early 2000’s. Harry would help out with sports; he would produce when guys would go out and do the ballgames.”
“He also worked on the scoreboard show on Friday nights,” Young said. “He kept things going with that with Tim Skaggs and myself. Harry helped me do some sports, at times — baseball. When we needed someone, he filled in there very capably.”
“When he was at the radio station, that’s when he met Mary, his late wife,” Young said. “She had some children and he took on that responsibility as stepfather. He and I were able to talk about that, because, when I married Sue, she had two daughters by her first marriage. We kind of bonded over that. It gave us something more to talk about than just work.”
“We were able to relate personal experiences about raising step-children,” Young said. “Getting used to being married and all of that. It was the first marriage for both of us.”
“Harry was really big on community,” Young said. “I think it came about because we did a lot of community programming. I think that kind of sparked his interest in trying to go beyond just an interview and that’s it. He really got more involved with each of these groups. He sat on a couple of the boards, I believe. He really pushed to get more acknowledgement for a lot of the civic and social organizations of our community.”
“I know he had a special place in his heart for the Special Olympics,” Young said. “He had a lot of different organizations that he did promotions for. Everyone was very happy to see him get that Hometown Hero award. I think from his perspective, it was nice to win that, but the most important thing was being able to get the word out to the community.”
“He felt he was helping the people of Fayette County,” Young said. “I think he was also trying to show his kids that, ‘hey, this is a good way to be a part of the community.’ I think he set a good example for everyone.”
“At a county fair, the 4-H kids and the FFA kids—those are the role models for our children” Harry told the Record-Herald’s Jennifer Woods in 2019. “I always wanted to highlight them. You show me a 10-year-old kid with a pitchfork, cleaning out a stall and that’s my next interview.”
Part of his plans for retirement (in 2019) was to be able to make and keep plans with his grandchildren.
“That’s why it’s important for me to retire now. I don’t want to do that to the grand kids. I want to be there for their sporting events, I want to be there for their school events—I just want to be there for them. I see them growing and it’s like just yesterday they were in diapers,” said Wright. “Time is flying on me. Mary’s passing taught me that every day is precious, because you’re not guaranteed tomorrow. So, make it count.”
“More than likely, my last breath will be Fayette County air,” Harry told Woods in 2019. “There I was in a radio station where I had the chance to make this a better place. And what a sin it would have been if I didn’t take that opportunity—literally a mortal sin. I never told anybody no.”
Harry was a tenor in the choir at the First Presbyterian Church in London. He was also on the church softball team and was a deacon at the church.
“He was well-loved,” Pastor Desiree Youngblood said. “Everybody loved Harry. He was a vital part of our congregation. The last couple of years he’d been bringing his grandchildren, Logan and Darren.”
“Harry and Mary were married in our church,” Youngblood said.
Mary had seven children when she married Harry.
“He raised them as his own,” Youngblood said. “He was a dad to them. They told me, ‘there’s a difference between a father and a dad and he was a dad.’ He would do funny things, like, wake them up with Reveille on the trombone. He played lots of instruments. His main instrument was the bass saxophone.”
“He went to Wright State, where he majored in music and Tom Lloyd was with him there, too,” Youngblood said. Lloyd was Wright’s music teacher in school at Madison Plains.”
“He was a master of tall tales, too,” Youngblood said. “He was bigger than life.”
“One of my favorite stories about Harry was the time when his kids were little, he and Mary were saving up money for their Christmas presents,” Youngblood said. “They found out a woman in the community was without heat. They sat down with the kids and told them they were going to give that money to buy her kerosene for her heater. He was a very generous and giving man.”
Wright raised over $1 million for youth bowling, Youngblood said. “It still pays for bowling in three counties,” Youngblood said. “He was always poor, but, he told his kids ‘we may be poor, but that doesn’t define you.’”
“Harry was very patriotic and four of his kids went into the military,” Youngblood said. “He encouraged the kids to get college degrees. They came out of an abusive situation. Harry refused to believe what he was told that they would end up being abusers themselves. He encouraged them to have good lives and to be successful and they’re all successful.”
“Harry was very spiritual,” Youngblood said. “He believed that Jesus Christ was his Lord and Saviour and he tried to live his life as a Christian. He wasn’t perfect, but he was forgiven.”
Kim Walker worked with Harry at WCHO radio.
“I was technically his boss, but, we were more friends, which was the case with almost everyone I worked with there,” Walker said. “We were a big family and he was a big part of that family.”
“He was one of the nicest guys I ever worked with,” Walker said. “He was very generous. He got along with everybody. Harry was the big brother of the family.”
Walker spoke about the love of Harry’s life, his wife, Mary.
“He was so in love with Mary when they got together,” Walker said. “She had seven kids that had been through a hard time. He took those kids to be his own and never looked back. They were his kids.”
“I had so much respect for the love of family that he had,” Walker said. “He loved his wife and his kids and his grand kids. He thought the world of them.”
Wright had love enough to care not only for those closest to him, but for the community at large.
“He loved being a part of everything that was going on,” Walker said. “Being in the middle of every fundraiser, every community event, he lived for that and put his all into it.”
David Woolever began working with Harry Wright in 2014 at WCHO.
Later they worked together for Channel 3.
“Harry was kind of the creative force behind some of the series we had done, highlighting different parts of Fayette County and Washington Court House,” Woolever said. “He was kind of the lifeblood of the t.v. station while he was there. We became fast friends.”
Harry was always looking for ways to help others, Woolever said.
“He was constantly trying to figure out how to do something for someone else,” Woolever said. “That’s just who he was. At the t.v. station, we would have to get sponsorship for certain things. He would always find a way for us to help out organizations that maybe didn’t have the funding to do things like that. We would just do little spotlights or interviews just to help them get more of their mission out there. He would always do that stuff for free.”
“Even when he would do remotes at the radio station, he would take time away from that just to be with people,” Woolever said.
“I guess if I could sum it up, Harry just had the biggest heart and he absolutely adored this community with everything that he had,” Woolever said. “I know I wouldn’t be in the position that I am right now with the t.v. station without the help that he gave me. He’s going to be missed, for sure.”