Charles Wright Jr. (1919 - 2016)

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  • "I will not ever forget the presence Mr. Wright had as the..."
    - Bill Elliott
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    - Catherine Howard
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    - Cynthia Harris
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    - Pete Jr &Elena Tavares
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Charles Wesley Wright, Jr. Charles Wesley Wright, Jr., who served two terms as Mayor of Topeka, Kansas, died in Topeka on December 27, 2016. Charles was born in Topeka at Christ's Hospital, the predecessor to Stormont-Vail Hospital, on August 17, 1919. His parents, Charles W. and Mary Kanode Wright, predeceased him as did a sister, Mary Eloise Magnuson. His sister, Ruth Hupe, Perry, Kansas, survives. Chuck Wright, as he was known to his friends, graduated from Topeka High School, Class of 1937, and Kansas University, 1941, with a BFA degree. One month after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the United States Navy and served as a Hospital Corpsman during World War II, graduating first in his class at Great Lakes Naval Training Center. While stationed in the South Pacific, Chuck applied for a transfer to the United States Marine Corps and was accepted into the USMC Officer's Candidate School in Quantico, VA. Upon graduation, Second Lieutenant Wright was re-assigned to Peleliu Island in the South Pacific, where he was preparing his unit for the invasion of the Japanese homeland when the atomic bombs ended the Pacific hostilities. After the end of World War II, Chuck continued to serve in the USMC Reserve, retiring as a Captain. Chuck married his high school sweetheart, Alice Clare Brownfield, on September 2, 1944, in Washington, D.C. They were married for 63 years, until her death in 2008. Chuck and Alice Clare had three children, Charles Wright III, who predeceased him, Douglas Wright (Anne Bennett), Topeka, and Catherine Howard, Lecompton, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Chuck worked as the Assistant to the Advertising Manager for Standard Oil in Chicago until 1954, when he returned to Topeka and established the Patterson-Wright Advertising Agency with his cousin, Duane Patterson. In 1961, Chuck embarked on a political career, serving two terms as Topeka's Street Commissioner from 1961 to 1965 and two terms as Mayor of Topeka from 1965 to 1969. As Street Commissioner, Chuck placed large flower pots on Kansas Avenue to create the mid-block crosswalks that are still used today. His friends and colleagues referred to him as Flower Pot Charlie. The potholes in the streets around town were renamed chuckholes and he was called Chuckhole Charlie. Chuck took delight in being referred to by these nicknames that were usually, but not always, used in jest. On June 8, 1966, Topeka was struck by a devastating tornado. Mayor Wright worked tirelessly to provide the leadership that allowed Washburn University, the city of Topeka, and the citizens of his beloved city to recover from this disaster. He coordinated the recovery and redevelopment efforts enlisting the help and gaining the support of the Topeka City Commission, the Shawnee County Commission, Governor Bill Avery, the Kansas Congressional delegation, and President Lyndon Johnson. He often joked that he went out the night of the tornado and arrived home two months later. Soon after leaving public office in Topeka, Chuck and his wife moved to 70 acres of land near Lecompton, Kansas that had been in his family since the original land grant was issued to one of his ancestors by President James Buchanan. Chuck and Alice Clare built a home and planted thousands of Christmas trees on their property. For many years, they operated Edgewood Tree Farm, a choose-and-harvest Christmas tree farm where area families bought their Christmas tree. Chuck and his wife published Christmas Trees Magazine, with a worldwide circulation, for owners of Christmas tree farms. Chuck helped to start the Kansas Christmas Tree Growers Association and served as an officer and board member. He also served on the board of the regional Mid America Christmas Tree Association and was presented with the Mike Gwinner award for service to the Christmas tree industry. In 2002, the National Christmas Tree Association honored Chuck with the first Outstanding Service to the Christmas Tree Industry Award. Chuck served several terms as an elected trustee for Lecompton Township in Douglas County, and he helped secure public and private funding for the Lecompton Historical Society that led to the renovation of Lane University in Lecompton. Chuck was also a licensed insurance agent and worked in the insurance industry for twenty years as the Missouri State Manager for Walt Garner Associates, Inc. of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. For many years, Chuck was the Scoutmaster of Troop 45 at Seabrook Congregational Church, where hundreds of young boys enjoyed camping and learned leadership skills. He helped over 65 boys become Eagle Scouts. Chuck was an Eagle Scout himself having received his Eagle Badge along with 15 other young boys in a city-wide ceremony that was held at Topeka's Municipal Auditorium. He was proud that his two sons, all four of his grandsons, and his great-grandson earned their Eagle Scout award. The Silver Beaver award was bestowed upon him for his Scouting service which included serving as Scoutmaster at the 1964 National Jamboree and the 1965 International Scout Jamboree in Derby, England. He served on the staff at two other National Jamborees, and he loved having local troops camp on his rural Douglas County property. Chuck was a member of Delta Chi Fraternity, the KU Alumni Association, and served as President of the KU Gold Medal Club. While a student at the University of Kansas, Chuck organized Dandelion Day on April 23, 1941, where 85 teams of students and faculty dug 8,150 pounds of dandelions followed by contests and parties. Besides supporting the Delta Chi Chapter at the University of Kansas, Chuck supported the Delta Chi Chapter at Washburn University, and was instrumental in establishing the Delta Chi Chapter at Kansas State University. As a boy, Chuck joined Westminster Presbyterian Church in Topeka. He was a member of Central Congregational Church and later joined First Congregational Church. He was a charter member of the Topeka Sales & Marketing Executives and started the Topeka Better Business Bureau after the 1966 tornado. Chuck was a 60-year Legion of Honor member of the Downtown Topeka Kiwanis Club and served as Kansas Lieutenant Governor. Chuck earned the Kiwanis Tablet of Honor, and was awarded the George F. Hixson Fellowship. In 2016, Chuck was presented with the Walter Zeller Fellowship by the Downtown Topeka Kiwanis Club. Chuck spent a lifetime serving others through his memberships in local, state, and national organizations. He was a member of the Kaw Valley Chapter Military Officers Association of America, the General Walt Detachment Marine Corps League, V. F. W., and the American Legion. Chuck served on the Washburn University Board of Regents. He and his wife enjoyed many Washburn University events including football and basketball games. They established a scholarship fund to benefit Washburn athletes. Chuck was a 70-year member of Orient Lodge 51, Scottish Rite, the Arab Shrine, the Shawnee County Historical Society, and the Topeka High School Historical Society. In 2001, he was inducted into the Topeka High School Hall of Fame. He served as a member of the Jayhawk Area Council, Boy Scouts of America Advisory Board. Memorial services will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, January 3, 2017 at First Congregational Church, 1701 SW Collins. The family will receive friends at the church from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. on Monday evening, January 2, 2017. Private inurnment will be in Mount Hope Mausoleum. Memorial contributions may be made to the Washburn University Chuck & Alice Clare Wright Athletic Scholarship Fund or to the Jayhawk Area Council, Boy Scouts of America. Penwell-Gabel Mid-Town Chapel is assisting with arrangements. To leave a special message for the family online, visit Chuck Wright

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Penwell-Gabel Cremations, Funerals & Receptions
1321 SW 10th Ave
Topeka, KS 66604
(785) 354-8558
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Published in Topeka Capital-Journal from Jan. 1 to Jan. 2, 2017
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