Spearheaded after a family reunion in Jacksonville, Florida, July 4th weekend in 2012 by the oldest child of Sp5 Wyley Wright Jr. (December 10, 1931-March 9, 1964) and Ouida McLendon Wright (January 10, 1935-March 9, 1970), the siblings Jackie, Joe, Stanley and Phyllis agreed to find out what it would take to move their father from a segregated cemetery to Arlington National Cemetery.
“Our Dad, died in Viet Nam after completing all of his regular missions with honors, just two weeks before returning home as he served on an additional mission as honor guard for then Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara,” said Joe N. Wright, 58, the eldest son of the Wrights. “Over the years, the City of Jacksonville did not up keep the segregated cemeteries in northern Jacksonville as the news reports and articles said they would do. Our war hero father is buried in one of them, Mt. Olive Cemetery.”
When the Wrights began their journey to have their father honored at Arlington, they began to realize that it would be an appropriate honor to pay tribute to their mother as well who is buried in Green Acres Cemetery in Columbus, Georgia that by contrast is a well-kept historic cemetery.
“There was a great bound of love between our parents. We have often noted over the years whether we would be here today, if it had not been for media, said Wright. By the happenstance of one of my father’s fellow soldiers returning from the Korean War, dropping a photo of our mom, then Miss Frederick Douglass and my father picking it up from the ship’s floor, we are here today. With love at first sight he proclaimed in his heart “this is my wife,” so we four siblings stand as their offspring and now they have great grandchildren, although they were in their early thirties when they died, six years apart,” added Wright.
The Cedar Hills subdivision of Columbus is where the Wright children grew up at 1103 Bedford Avenue, a home built for them by their mother Ouida Fay McLendon Wright from proceeds from their father’s Metropolitan Life Insurance proceeds. The home at the corner of Bedford and Dawn Court, a distinctive structure built of Tennessee stone by one of few Black contractors at the time, Ed Stovall, is now a facility for the elderly owned by Katie and Robert Morris, cousins of the Wrights, who live across the street. Most identify the former Wright home with a similar structure that was built after it, M.L. Harris United Methodist Church, at the corner of Bedford and Cusseta Road that is also made of Tennessee stone.
The Wrights say that it all seems to be coming in full circle. Ouida Wright, often spoke of their home as being for extended family and friends in need and now it is serving as such after the Morris’ bought the home to keep it in the family after foreclosure from a predatory loan in the mid 1980's. Now the youngest daughter, Phyllis Wright Cameron, now 50, who was six months old when her father (who never got to hold her and only saw her picture) died and six years old when her mother died, is just weeks away from opening a home for seniors in Pittsburg, CA near her home of Antioch.
“I am really proud of my cousin Fay’s children for doing their best to make it through life without benefit of their parents,” said Katie Morris, a real estate agent, who was a nurse at the time on the 2nd floor of Martin Army Hospital where Ouida Fay Wright died. “From Jackie working her way through the University of Georgia raising her teenage sister and her daughter, Tiffanie who was in elementary school at the time, to Joe serving in the U.S. Army, to Stanley now owning his own “Done Wright” trucking company in South Carolina and now Phyllis following our family tradition of service to others, I believe they have proven to be salt of the earth people doing the best they could do with the circumstances they have faced,” added Morris.
Family members are expected to gather from around the country in Arlington for the reburials. Stanley Wright, with wife of 29 years, Viola Barnes, the daughter of SFC Romie L. Barnes and Margaret Guest Barnes, also a military family, with their three children, 28, 26 and 19 from Orangeburg, South Carolina; Phyllis Wright Cameron, with Woodrow Cameron, her husband of 26 years and their 8 year old daughter from Antioch, CA near San Francisco, Jackie Wright of San Francisco, with daughter Tiffanie Chiles-Mitchell and her husband of 14 years, Carlos Mitchell with their three children, 9, 8, and 4 years old coming from Dallas and from Columbus, Joe and Brenda, who will be gathering their three children from Atlanta and Oakland, CA with their grandchildren 14 and 6 years old coming from Atlanta and Miami. Brenda, the daughter of Bruce Tibbs and Doris Tibbs (deceased), also grew up in a military family. Furthering the military connection, Joe and Brenda’s eldest son served in the Navy.
Members of the extended family and friends who can attend have been invited to the memorial celebration titled… “A Tribute to Sp5 Wyley Wright and Ouida F. Wright, “Love Separated in Life…Love Reunited in Honor.”
“This has been an unexpected honor for us to manifest the Judeo-Christian principle “honor thy father and thy mother” in this way, said Jackie Wright, 60 of San Francisco. “The Internet led me to some soldiers who had served in my father’s military unit the 114th (One-Fourteenth)
Having to be immersed in researching death certificates, excavation companies and funeral homes, the Wrights are not taking this experience as a sad occasion but an uplifting one in the face of their loss. The memorials and memories are a significant part of life as birthday and other celebrations, according to the Wrights. They consider the faithfulness of God that they as the children of Wyley and Ouida Wright have lived longer on earth than their parents and that even some of their parents’ grandchildren have outlived their time on earth. Among joyous occasions, Wright, an ordained minister, conducted his first wedding ceremony, the day after Valentine’s Day 2014 for his niece, Tiana Chanell Tibbs and Marcus Culley at Healy Point Country Club in Macon, Georgia.
The Wright Family would also like to extend condolences to the Shea Family as they note the loss of PFC John Francis Shea, a Roman Catholic from Willimantic, Connecticut, who was twenty days shy of his 21st birthday when he too died serving as a door gunner in the helicopter crash that claimed Sp5 Wyley Wright’s life. Helicopter/
The Wrights thank the soldiers of the 114th Aviation Company, Taylor Funeral Home of Phenix City, Alabama, Greene Funeral Home of Alexandria, Virginia, Carthage Funeral Home of Jacksonville, Sconiers Funeral Home of Columbus, Georgia, Wilbert Inc. of Jacksonville, Florida, Green Acres Cemetery in Columbus, Georgia, and Mount Olive Cemetery of Jacksonville, Florida for their help. The office of Commanding General H.R. McMaster of Fort Benning, GA was of great assistance in providing information along with Arlington National Cemetery.
The services will be at 3:00 p.m., March 10, 2014 at Arlington National Cemetery. A reception will follow at a location to be determined.
In lieu of flowers, those wishing to express sentiments of commemoration and congratulations to the family can do so by contributing to the “Wright Place” Senior Facility that is being launched in Pittsburg, CA by Wright sibling Phyllis Cameron and her husband, Woodrow Cameron. Via PayPal (www.paypal.com)
For other background information on the family’s journey of honor, see the following links:
Memorial Tribute Fact Sheet:
Media Advisory February 14, 2014- http://www.prlog.org/
Media Contact: Kelly Armstrong, 415 525 0410
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