George Howard Wright, head custodian at the Berne-Knox-Westerlo School District for 30 years, was a handyman, a sports fan, a traveler, and a family man above all.
Mr. Wright died on Friday, Feb. 13, 2009, at St. Peter's Hospital. He was 67. A funeral service was held on Sunday at the South Berne Christian Congregational Church.
"If my husband could have opened his eyes and seen how many people were at his viewing, he would have turned around and pulled the lid down - he was such a humble man," said his wife, Judy Wright. "He would have been absolutely shocked."
They would have been married 33 years this June.
"Never in all those years did I ever hear George say a negative word about anybody. He would always play devil's advocate and try to make people see the other side. And I think he instilled that in his kids," his wife said, along with his work ethic, and his love. He got along with everybody, she said.
"His three grandchildren were the absolute love of his life," Mrs. Wright said. "He retired to take care of them, and he was teaching them about the birds and showing them his birdfeeders." Their oldest grandchild will be 5 in March, she said.
"He was very much an outdoor person," his wife said. They have a fishpond, of which he was very fond, she said. But, no matter what Mr. Wright was doing, his wife was with him.
"We did everything together," she said. "He was always at my right hand. For a while, we made clocks, and did a lot of woodworking together, but he liked any kind of handicraft, and, anything creative, he was good at."
Wright and his wife loved to travel together, and saw "pretty much all the United States," Mrs. Wright said. His favorite place was Tennessee.
"We've taken road trips and camped, but he loves Tennessee; we went there every year for at least a week," she said. "Ultimately, I think he would have loved to move there at some point in his retirement. Tennessee is a wonderful combination of the look of the Helderbergs, and warm weather. Plus, he loved country music, so Tennessee was his perfect combination of music and home."
He was a devoted fan of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR), his wife said, but Mr. Wright loved all sports ever since he was a child growing up in Florida. He graduated from Fort Lauderdale High School before coming to the Northeast. His love for sports led to his support of the BKW Bulldogs.
"He always followed the BKW sports in the paper," Mrs. Wright said. "It was always an important part of his life, and he looked at them all as his friends."
Before working as head custodian for the BKW School District, Mr. Wright worked as a mechanic and a chicken farmer, his wife said.
"But, when he got hired at school, we looked at it and said, 'Well, it's not the best paying job, but he's home with the children by three o' clock,'" she said. "He cared so much about that place, and the people. When I just think about acquaintances that we've run into over the years, it's really overwhelming. We couldn't go anywhere - even shopping in Albany or Cobleskill - without a kid pointing to him and saying to their mother, 'That's George!'"
Mr. Wright met his wife while working at Tasco, Reverend Jay Francis's business that "made portable little barns," for smaller animals, Mrs. Wright said.
"I worked for Jay as an office manager, and George came in one day, looking for a job," she said.
"George was very handy; he could do electrical work and carpenter work. One day, Jay had a dinner for employees, and George asked me to go with him. From then, we've never been apart." It was love at first sight, Mrs. Wright said.
"In Berne, we were known as George and Judy," she said. "The hardest part now will be learning how to just be Judy."
Wright is survived by his wife, Judy Wright; his three sons, Craig Wright, Jeremy Wright, and Andrew Wright and his wife, Amy; three grandchildren, Alexis, Andrew Jr., and Arlan; his sister, Barbara Eriksen; his sister-in-law, Carolyn Wright; and many cousins and nephews.
His parents, Howard and Celia Wright, died before him, as did his brother, Robert Wright.
Memorial contributions may be made to the South Berne Christian Congregational Church, 101 Church Road, Berne, NY 12023, or to the American Heart Association, Post Office Box 3049, Syracuse, NY 13220.
Burial will be in Woodlawn Cemetery in Berne on May 9, 2009 immediately following his brother, Bob's interment at 2 PM.