Life Story / Obituary
Leonard and Dorothy were truly partners for life. Their love for each other and their family was unwavering. They both lived long, happy lives together and when their time came, each of them passed from this world peacefully in their own beds.
The last time the two of them were together, until the day Dorothy died, was November 17, 2014, which very appropriately was their 70th Wedding Anniversary. This picture was taken that day showing them still holding hands, which was very characteristic for them. In her final year, Dorothy’s dementia was quite advanced and she was not able to recognize anyone visually, but when she heard Leonard’s voice, she always responded to him and appeared to understand he was her husband. She would visibly relax as she listened to him talk and would still laugh at some of his many stories. After being together for 70 years, they were only separated for 2 weeks and are together again for eternity. They leave behind them a legacy of love.
The following posting to Leonard’s Life Story “Memories” page very eloquently captures the essence of Dorothy and Leonard:
“I had the pleasure of taking care of Wilbur a few years ago as his Home Care Nurse. He and his wife were a joy to visit, as they were always happy to have visitors. Wilbur always had a smile on his face, even when he didn’t feel well. He loved his land, his dog, his family and his workshop. It doesn’t surprise me that he followed Dorothy to Heaven only 13 days apart. This was a couple that wasn’t to be separated. Rest in Peace, Dorothy and Wilbur. I hope to see you again someday!”
Dorothy’s Life Story
Dorothy was born in Chicago, Illinois on January 27, 1923 to Edna Josephine (Stewart) Horner and Lew Wallace Horner, both originally of Knox, Indiana. Like many people in her generation, she did not have an easy childhood and had to help raise her younger brother and assume many of the daily household chores when her mother had to work to support the family. She graduated from Bowen High School in Chicago and was a secretary in the base newspaper office of the Naval School in Chicago where she met her “Mr. Right,” Leonard Wright. He was in the Navy attending aircraft hydraulics training at the school and happened to be temporarily assigned to the newspaper office.
Dorothy and Leonard were married on November 17, 1944 at the First Christian Church in Elk City, Oklahoma, near where Leonard was temporarily stationed at the Naval Air Station in Clinton, Oklahoma. The minister noticed that the marriage license was issued in a neighboring county, so following the church ceremony, the bridal party and the minister drove the short distance over the county line where the couple was officially married in their car.
After the war, Dorothy and Leonard made Chicago their home where they raised their two children, Leonard L. Wright and Judith L. Wright (Albert). They were truly partners in life. Dorothy was a very traditional stay-at-home mom and was actively involved in the PTA, Cub Scouts, Brownies and Girl Scouts and church organizations. She was always a willing, cheerful volunteer to help out in any way she could and was very generous with her time. She was fiercely determined to provide a better home life and childhood for her children than she experienced while she was growing up and she did a wonderful job. Dorothy was a very loyal friend and maintained friendships for many decades.
She always preferred working behind the scenes and shunned the spotlight. The one exception was when she was crowned “Queen” of T.O.P.S. for losing the most weight in her local chapter and represented her group in a regional event. She was still uncomfortable with the extra attention, but did enjoy the acknowledgement of her hard work. She was happiest when she had her family gathered around her for a meal. She once remarked “I was put on this earth to feed people,” and she sincerely felt that way.
After spending her entire life within a few block radius in Chicago, Dorothy gladly made the move to Traverse City when Leonard retired in 1984 and wanted to return to his hometown. It was a whole new way of life for a city girl to move to a rural area with over 20 acres of land of their own. She adapted quickly, made many new friends and soon was canning homegrown fruits and vegetables until the basement shelves were filled to capacity.
Dorothy and Leonard were very fortunate to enjoy many years of retirement together until her Parkinson’s-related dementia advanced to the point where Leonard could no longer provide the around-the-clock care she required, at which point she moved to Birchwood, where she spent the last 6 ½ years of her life.
Dorothy Evelyn Wright, 91, passed away peacefully on the morning of Wednesday, December 10, 2014 at Tendercare-Birchwood Nursing Center with her loving husband of 70 years, Wilbur “Leonard” Wright, and her daughter and son-in-law, Judy and Matt Albert, at her side. Dorothy was preceded in death by her parents and step-father, Thomas Salaba, her two brothers, Robert M. Stewart of Iron River, Michigan and Wallace Horner of Chicago, and her son, Leonard Louis Wright of San Diego and granddaughter-in-law Laura (Petri) Albert of Lisle, Illinois. The family wants to express their gratitude for the loving care provided to Dorothy by the caring and compassionate staff at Birchwood.
Leonard’s Life Story
Even though his legal name was Wilbur, he was always known by family and friends as Leonard. When he was born on July 14, 1921 at home in Traverse City, his mother, Dorcas Irene (Gibbs) Wright, favored the name Wilbur, while his father, Daniel Jackson Wright preferred the name Leonard. Since his dad was temporarily away from home working in a lumber camp at the time of Leonard’s birth, his mother chose the name Wilbur. However, upon Daniel’s return home, he insisted on calling his son Leonard, which stuck with him throughout his lifetime.
Daniel died when Leonard was only 11 years old, the middle child with an older brother, Kenneth K. Wright, sister, Dorothy Vivian (Wright) Forton, brother Daniel Woodrow Wright who died as an infant, and two younger brothers, Donald Edward Wright and Billie Raymond Wright. Even as a child, Leonard was always mechanically gifted and would sometimes have to come home from school to fix the washing machine for his mother. By the time Leonard was 18, his mother had married Jesse Heniser and their blended household included Leonard and his younger brothers Donald and Billie and the eight youngest Heniser step-siblings.
Leonard served twice in the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp.) working mostly on road building projects, and then enlisted in the Navy in 1942. During his time in the Navy, he was stationed in the Admiralty Islands and then at Clark Field in the Philippines serving as an aircraft mechanic, primarily on B-24’s until Japan surrendered. Leonard was honorably discharged from the Navy in December 1945.
Leonard worked in many different jobs in the construction business, including welding, pile-driving, operating all types of heavy equipment and repairing just about anything mechanical, regardless of size. He worked outside in all kinds of weather and worked many double shifts. His favorite job was being a crane operator. Leonard had many talents and skills along with an incredible work ethic and never had trouble finding a job even when jobs were scarce. He was very proud when he received his gold watch in recognition of 50 years of union membership in Local 150 of the International Order of Operating Engineers.
When he retired, Leonard was anxious to return to his roots in Traverse City. Even though he was not actually farming their 20 acres, he did love to have one or more gardens growing a variety of things each summer. Mostly, though, he loved acquiring, repairing and eventually working with all kinds of farm equipment. When his workshop door was open, it was like a beacon that attracted friends to stop by to visit and usually ask for advice or help in solving some kind of problem on a piece of their machinery. He was always very generous with his time and efforts to help anyone and loved the chance to “talk shop” with them. If he didn’t have a part he needed to fix something, he simply made one from scratch and thought nothing of it. When Dorothy’s arthritic knees made it difficult for her to climb the basement stairs, Leonard simply made a “chair lift” of his own design, which solved the problem.
Leonard also loved his part-time job at the East Bay Township compacting station where he worked for about 12 years. It gave him a chance to see and talk to many neighbors and sometimes rescue some items destined for the compactor that could still be fixed and used. He was not part of the “disposable generation,” and couldn’t stand to see anything go to waste.
Eventually, Len and Dorothy’s daughter, Judy, and son-in-law Matt Albert followed in their footsteps and moved to Traverse City from the Chicago area when they retired in 2002. As Judy and Matt made new friends in the area, they introduced them to Len and Dorothy, who became like surrogate parents to many. It became an annual event for Len to hook up his trailer behind his tractor and haul a group of friends out to the back of his property where Len and Matt had planted thousands of Christmas trees (using a tree-planter that Len designed and made himself, mostly out of scrap material or parts he had in his “inventory”) so everyone could pick out and cut down their own tree.
Both Dorothy and Leonard were animal lovers and provided a good home to a variety of pets over the years, including everything from white mice, a wild rabbit they named “Peter,” two baby chicks that grew (in the city of Chicago) into a hen and rooster, a parakeet named “Chilli” and even a few snakes that their son kept. Their favorites, though, were dogs. There was “Peppy” the terrier mix, “Mike” the cocker spaniel (nicknamed “Grouchy Old Mike” by grandsons Brian and Kevin), “Clyde” the beagle mix who just appeared one day on the back porch and never left, who would hide under the dining room table and occasionally nip at Dorothy’s heels and “Max,” another beagle mix stray with a mild manner and a heart of gold.
When Dorothy and Len were in their 80’s and starting to slow down a teeny bit, they got their last dog, “Ginger,” a half Lab and half German shorthair pointer with the sweetest disposition. She was just over a year old, had an abundance of energy and loved to run just for the sake of running. More than once in the early years, Len questioned the wisdom of two seniors having such a young, energetic dog at that point in their lives. As usual, Len came up with a solution to the problem. He got a golf cart so he and Dorothy could ride on the trail to the back of their property while Ginger ran freely through the woods. After Dorothy moved to Birchwood, Ginger would accompany Len on their many visits to see Dorothy and became well known among the staff and residents. When Leonard could finally no longer care for Ginger, she became part of Judy and Matt’s household.
Leonard was blessed with excellent health throughout his life until his mid-eighties when he developed a serious autoimmune disease. He wasn’t expected to survive, but miraculously he awoke from a coma a few days before Christmas. Over the last half dozen or so years he encountered a number of other life-threatening situations, but always managed to beat the odds and somehow keep his typical upbeat outlook on life. He lived independently in his own house and continued to drive his car and operate his tractor to cut grass and clear snow from his driveway until the spring of 2014, at age 92, when he made the decision to sell his home and move to assisted living. This was possible in part by the services provided by the Grand Traverse Commission on Aging.
Wilbur W. “Leonard” Wright, 93, passed away Tuesday afternoon, December 23, 2014 at Traverse Victorian Inn, where he had lived for the past six months. Leonard was preceded in death by his loving wife, Dorothy Evelyn Wright; his parents, Dorcas and Daniel Wright; his son, Leonard Louis Wright of San Diego; his granddaughter-in-law, Laura (Petri) Albert of Lisle, Illinois and all of his siblings and most of his friends.
Surviving Dorothy and Leonard are their daughter Judith (Wright) Albert and son-in-law Mathew Albert of Traverse City, daughter-in-law Sandra Wright of El Cajon, California; grandchildren, Brian (Tammy) Albert and their children Randy and Charlie of Channahon, Illinois, Kevin (Lorraine) Albert and their son Joren of Lisle, Illinois; Lisa (Jeff) DeLaney and their children Cole and Sydney of El Cajon, California and Jennifer (Ryan) McIntyre and their son Reid, of San Diego, California. Also surviving is Leonard’s step-sister, Betty Ann (Heniser) Payer of Birch Run, Michigan.
The last six months of Leonard’s life were spent at the Traverse Victorian Inn, where he was able to relax with his own furniture and belongings in his private room, and yet mingle with other residents at mealtime in the dining room. The family wants to express their gratitude for the loving care provided to Leonard by the caring and compassionate staff at the Victorian Inn. Memorial contributions may be made to the Grand Traverse County Commission on Aging or the Traverse Victorian Inn.
Cremation has taken place and a combined memorial service will be held 11:00am, May 21, 2015 at Life Story Funeral Home in Traverse City, which will be conducted by Pastor Nathan Norman from The Orchard Church in Traverse City. Following the service, both Dorothy’s and Leonard’s ashes will be interred at Grand Traverse Memorial Gardens, Traverse City, where Leonard will be accorded full military honors in recognition of his service to his country during World War II.
Please visit their webpages at www.lifestorynet.com to sign the guest book and share a message with their family. The family chose Life Story Funeral Home, Traverse City.