Art Wright of Duluth remembered for life well-lived as gardener, friendPerhaps his secret was the Brussels sprouts. “I recall that, once, he invited me into his kitchen for coffee,” Bob Olen said, “and he inadvertently opened the freezer door, and out fell a bag of Brussels sprouts.” Olen, who is the Extension horticulture educator for St. Louis County, was speaking of friend Arthur “Art” Wright, who died Tuesday at age 100.
By: Tony Bennett, Duluth News Tribune
Perhaps his secret was the Brussels sprouts.
“I recall that, once, he invited me into his kitchen for coffee,” Bob Olen said, “and he inadvertently opened the freezer door, and out fell a bag of Brussels sprouts.” Olen, who is the Extension horticulture educator for St. Louis County, was speaking of friend Arthur “Art” Wright, who died Tuesday at age 100.
The intervening years have been chock-full of evidence about the power of Brussels sprouts, Olen said. “He certainly had a good diet, and he ate what he produced, and he shared not only what he produced, but the knowledge that he had.”
Wright was, in fact, a certified Master Gardener. His love for gardening was well-known locally, and he and his wife, Helen — who died in December 2010, also at age 100 — were the focus of a News-Tribune profile 10 years ago that showcased their prowess.
“Art and Helen were among the first group” in the Master Gardener program, Olen said. “He had a tremendous interest in growing edibles, where Helen had a great interest in growing flowers and perennials. They made a great combination.”
“He was a wonderful family man, a wonderful community participant, a great volunteer as a St. Louis County Master Gardener, and he left a lasting impression on so many of us,” Olen said. “He was a kind, gentle and knowledgeable individual.”
One of Wright’s other passions was amateur radio.
“He actually got his first ham license in 1928. He was a co-founder of the Arrowhead Amateur Radio Club,” said John Baumgarten, a close family friend who credits Wright with sparking his own interest in the medium. “He was active right up until the last couple months.”
Baumgarten, who went to school with Art and Helen’s son, Donald, spent the past few years visiting Wright every Monday at Mount Royal Pines III. “He was an enormously intelligent person. He had great stories — total recall of his life. There wasn’t any honor or duty in spending time with him. He was fun to be with.”
As Baumgarten tells it, Art and Helen Wright had a lust for life that carried them along their 75 years together.
“When he was 90 and Helen was 93, they drove to Alaska,” he said. “Now, that in itself is an amazing feat, but they camped,” he said, laughing. “Can you imagine the border guard, seeing them with all this camping equipment? But that’s the kind of thing he’d do.”
Maybe it was his Boy Scout background.
“Mr. Wright was truly a Scout for life,” said David Nolle, executive and CEO of the Voyageurs Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America. “Art was very proud of the fact that he had been an Eagle Scout since 1929. He routinely would participate and provide financial support to events. He was a great asset.”
Wright’s lifelong appetite for exploration and intellectual stimulation once led him to a stint with the prestigious Bell Labs, Baumgarten said. The New Jersey think tank tapped Wright through his job with Northwestern Bell, his employer for 40 years. “He was this little project engineer from Duluth, Minnesota, and they had him out there with a thousand top guys.”
Of all his interests, though, maybe one of his biggest was other people.
“I’m always amazed at how many people loved him,” said Donald Wright. “Even the last day, in the nursing home, he had 10 visitors. He was good to everybody. He helped all sorts of people without any expectation of anything in return. He was good company.”
For his part, Donald Wright is as impressed with his parents and their long life together as everyone else who knew them.
“It’s sort of a fairy tale, isn’t it?” he asked with a laugh. “Talk about ‘Happily ever after.’ ”