Remembering William Wright

By Jonathan Austin
Yancey County News
Published April 19, 2012

In William Wright’s world, everything had a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.

He had aspirations and dreams. He wanted to marry his sweetheart. He wanted to be a father. He wanted a career in tactical law enforcement. He wanted to build and operate a successful farm.

But his family says everything took a back seat unless he felt led by his Lord. “He was waiting for the Lord to tell him it was time to do these things,” his sister, Mary Ann Cramp, said.

So he tried to live a righteous life, his father says, caring for family and friends, planning an August wedding, and doting on two nieces who loved him dearly.

And when he died April 11 at age 31, just two days after suffering a head injury in a fall at work at the Mountain View Correctional Institution, he left a gap that will be hard to fill.

But if he could speak now, by all appearances he would say: “Everything has a season.”

Mary Ann says William grew into adulthood feeling people had to “pay back” to the community in return for the joy of living in such a wonderful world. “The Lord came first, then family, then work.”

“He was a fantastic boy,” said his father, Archie Lee Wright, as he sat talking at his kitchen table Wednesday night in the Jack’s Creek community.

William helped care for his grandparents and helped his father, a Vietnam War Marine veteran who has suffered strokes and sometimes uses a motorized scooter to get around. “He helped me and his mom; all he did was go to work and go to church and help around here.”

He was a shy man but good looking, and his sister laughed when asked if girls asked about her brother. “Oh, yes,” she replied, but William said the Lord would tell him when it was right.

“He believed in old-style courtship.”

He had known Kelly Renee Peterson for years and considered her a close friend, but she is the one who had to be bold and actually suggest that a romance was building between the two.

“I was working with him and he took me home one night. We were laughing and having a good time,” she recalls. “Right in the middle of it I grabbed him and leaned up and kissed him.”

William took her on home and came back to talk with his sister. He was interested in Kelly, he told her, but he needed to pray to know the right thing to do.

“Do you feel this is right?” Mary Ann remembers asking him. “Do you feel the Lord is leading you to this?”

“Yes,” he said with conviction.

Kelly remembers how shy and reserved he was. “He once said, ‘I always wanted to hold hands with somebody I loved,’ “she said Wednesday. “I just reached over and held his hand.”

They dated, and made plans to marry. But nothing was rushed. Their dates were mostly hanging out together while doing other things, though William and Kelly made special time for walks out around his parents’ home. They planned on children, but “he wanted the timing perfect. He said it had to go in order,” his sister said.

Meanwhile, he doted on Lee Ann, 10, and Sarah Elizabeth, 6. He loved being an uncle – they called him Nuckle – and Lee Ann enjoyed sitting with him watching movies. “We’d watch movies and he’d make me popcorn and get me a cold drink,” Lee Ann remembers.

Sarah Elizabeth – “She’s named Elizabeth because Nuckle wanted that,” her mom added – said he would sneak her treats “like chocolates filled with caramel and barbecue chips.”

“He wouldn’t leave the hospital when these kids were born,” Mary Ann said. “He adored them.”

And he was loved by family, friends and neighbors.

“He was a unique, special, rare individual,” his father said. “You don’t see people like that much anymore.”

His mother, Erlene Wright, seemed hard pressed to speak much, so soon after his death. She told a story about how he was “a fireball” as a little boy, but he responded to firm love and never forgot the importance of that love. “He was a special son,” she said.

After his fall at the prison William was taken by ambulance to the hospital in Spruce Pine, where he was admitted. He had a CAT scan, his sister says, and was admitted for observation, but everything seemed fine.

Discharged the next day, he went home and seemed OK, his father said. Then something happened. He got up, walked out of the room, and died. He was buried – with his Bible – on Saturday.

“Right now we don’t know what happened,” Archie Wright said. “We don’t want to dwell on why.”

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