Clifford WRIGHT

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Clifford Emerson Wright
1927 - 2014
Cliff Wright passed away on December 9, 2014 at St. Paul's Hospital after a more-than- eight-years battle with cancer. Looked after by his loving wife Betty he was able to stay at home until the day before his passing. A Celebration of Cliff's life will be held at St. John's Anglican Cathedral, 816 Spadina Crescent East, starting at 1:30 p.m., Wednesday, December 17, 2014. There will be a reception after the Celebration in the Adams Ballroom at the Hotel Bessborough.
To the very end, Cliff would tell everybody that he was a very lucky man, and despite the cancer, he had absolutely nothing to complain about. He was born and lived his entire life in Saskatoon, a city he truly believed was the most magical city in the world. He fell in love with the former Betty Dye in 1945 and spent the next almost 70 years with his soul mate. They were married in 1951, and it was a marriage of mutual devotion for the ages. He received great joy from his four children, his ten grandchildren, and his two great- grandchildren. He had two fulfilling careers – one in the construction business and one in public service. He accumulated numerous friends over a lifetime. In his final days he looked back on this with wonder and pride, and made sure all of his family knew how grateful he was for it all.
Cliff was born on September 21, 1927 to Sam and Ada Wright, their fifth and last child. He was a precocious child, with the occasional predilection to mischief, a source of frustration for his proper English parents. He attended public school at Albert and Victoria schools and attended high school at Nutana Collegiate. At Nutana he was Senior Watch, played on the basketball team and quarterbacked (not entirely successfully) the football team. After high school he continued to play basketball with The Diamonds, a team that was so-so on the basketball court, but excellent at friendship and partying. At every Diamond wedding extending over three generations, Ted Benesh would lead them all in a rendition of "Wedding Bells Are Breaking Up That Old Gang of Mine." It became more poignant over the years as the hair got greyer, and the weddings became those of the children and the grandchildren, but the wedding bells didn't really break up the gang, they just made it bigger.
Upon graduation from high school Cliff studied Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan, but he was impatient to get on with his career, and he left before graduating. This would be rectified forty years later when he was awarded an honourary Doctor of Law degree from the University. He followed Sam's footsteps into the construction business, starting out as an apprentice carpenter with Smith Brothers and Wilson, eventually rising to be Saskatchewan Vice President. In 1987 he bought out the Saskatchewan assets of Smith Brothers and Wilson and created the company that would become Wright Construction. Under his direction, and then that of his son Lorne, Wright Construction has grown to become the largest Saskatchewan-based general contractor, doing projects from Thunder Bay through Nanaimo.
While he was successfully running the construction business, Cliff embarked on a parallel career in public service. He sincerely believed that he had a responsibility to give back to the city and the province that had nourished him. From 1967-76 he sat on Saskatoon City Council as an alderman, and from 1976-88 he was a successful mayor of the city he loved so completely. In addition to the city council activities, he was variously the Chair of the University Hospital Board, Chair of the Saskatchewan Potash Corporation when it was still a crown corporation, President of the Saskatchewan Futures Corporation, and Chair of the Saskatoon Health Board. He prided himself on being appointed to positions by every Premier from Ross Thatcher in the 1960s through to Roy Romanow in the 1990s.
Perhaps his proudest single achievement in public service was when he was Treaty Land Entitlement Commissioner in the early 1990s and worked with Roland Crowe, Chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, and the federal and provincial governments to settle long outstanding land claims for twenty-five First Nations in Saskatchewan.
In addition to his hounourary doctorate, his public service was recognized by his appointment to the Saskatchewan Order of Merit and the Order of Canada. He said the most exciting thing for him when he received the Order of Canada was that he was at the same ceremony as Jean Beliveau. By coincidence, his passing follows that of the hockey great by a week.
Cliff was predeceased by his mother and father, and by his siblings Wilbur, Norah and George. His sister Phyllis survives him. His memory will be cherished by his beloved Betty, his children Jack, Don (Nancy), Nancy (Mike Cuelenaere), Lorne (Lynne), and his grandchildren Duncan (Marie), Alix (Ryan Mance), Hilary (Dan Gordon), Lindsay, James, Garett, Michelle, Justine, Antony and Marcia. He was astonished to survive to see his two beautiful great-granddaughters, Mona and Misa. His grandchildren always marvelled at his prowess as a champion napper, the noisier the room the better.
Betty would like to express heartfelt appreciation for the caregivers who helped her look after Cliff in his final time – Dr. Bill Haver, Addy Loomes, Gail Fitzpatrick, Saskatoon Palliative Home Care, Saskatoon Nurses Next Door, and the staff of St. Paul's Hospital Palliative Ward.
In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate donations to each person's charity of choice.
Condolences may be sent to [email protected] Arrangements have been entrusted to Saskatoon Funeral Home.
Funeral Home
Saskatoon Funeral Home
338 4th Avenue North
Saskatoon, SK S7K 2L7
(306) 244-5577
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Published in The Saskatoon StarPhoenix from Dec. 10 to Dec. 12, 2014
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