By 11:00am there appeared to be 300 to 500 people in the
Auditorium. Approximately 60 of the attendees were Team Runners
High members or former members.
The service started with a greeting and opening prayer given
by George's sister-in-law Charlotte Tracy Wright.
This was followed by many touching reflections by a number of
people including our own team members Jim Stevens and Mike
There could not have been a dry eye in the auditorium during the
remarks by George and Barbara's son Michael whose profound grief
could be felt by all. Michael framed his very poignant talk as a
letter to his father and recounted the good times of growing up
with a father who loved him, guided him and taught him the
lessons of life. Michael recounted the happy times they had in
the mountains, hiking, fishing and skiing as well as many other
happy and humorous events.
Following the reflections there was a Celebration of Life photo
montage which was created by Amy Fillipow. The photo Montage was
shown on the big screen and was beautifully done. It showed all
aspects of George's life from boyhood, to school days, military
service, marriage, fathering, coaching, triathlons, running,
skiing and much more.
The closing prayer and benediction were given by Charlotte Tracy
Following the ceremony there was a pot luck in the Rose garden
at which there was an abundance of delicious foods and desserts.
It was good to see and visit with friends many of whom we had
not seen in some time and to reminisce about George's life.
Though out the "Celebration of life" you came to know George as
a loving man of true character who had a enormous zest for life.
Thank you Barbara for the organizing this beautiful and touching
celebration of George's life and for giving us all this
opportunity to come together and try to reconcile ourselves to
George's premature departure from this earth.
George will be truly missed by all who knew him.
by Dan Empfield 12.7.05
have been privileged to know, in recent years, two who have
demonstrated to me in ways they did not know what it means to be
a man. Both have been in their mid 50s to early 60s. Both men
have been devastatingly good at what they do athletically, one
on the bike, and the other at all three sports comprising a
Both are similarly short in stature ó each less than seventy
inches tall ó ironic considering how robust the strength of
their character. And both have demonstrated steadfastness,
patience, love and great dignity living with a wife who is
struggling with a serious and life threatening battle with
cancer. Were it not for this last thing, Iíd still have
considered each of these men a role model for me, and I donít
accept role models easily. When you add to their already
exemplary lives this other thing, well, it isnít how you run the
last 13 miles of an Ironman that separates the men from the
real men. Itís the strength and grace that each of these
men has demonstrated, when each has been wounded in a place
against which no armor could protect Ė this is what has set them
Neither of these men will know how much theyíve meant to me.
One, because I havenít told him and doubt that I will. The
second because I didnít tell him and no longer can. The second
is 63-year-old George Wright, who died November 26 of a heart
attack while Ė what else? Ė riding his bicycle up a hill.
Though short of stature George Wright was a strongman. But
there are, it must be acknowledged, many such strong men. It
was that other element that made George one in ten thousand,
that and much more.
remember George telling me once about the cross-country team he
coached at Long Beach Poly High School. Georgeís team won the
Division-One California Southern Section title an unprecedented
five consecutive times, from 1996 through 2000. Three of these
teams went on to win California State titles.
ďSay what, George?Ē How do I put this politically? Poly
is a black school! Poly has sent more players to the
NFL than any high school in America. Poly regularly wins track
& field championships, George, but not with its 2-milers! And
itís not as if George took over a distance powerhouse.
Pre-George, the last time Poly won a CIF cross-country title was
How did a white swimmer come to a black high school and create a
perennial distance running juggernaut? I still havenít gotten
to the bottom of this. But I did wonder how Georgeís distance
runners did during track season. Quite well, no doubt, but
George wasnít there to help, at least not in the early years.
He was too busy each Spring, I found out, coaching Long Beach
Polyís swim team. I further learned the following, after
was born to Helen and George Wright on October 5, 1942 in Los
Angeles, California. He was raised in the San Fernando Valley
along with his younger brother Don. George excelled as an
athlete at Birmingham High School participating on two CIF
Championship swim teams. George went on to college at Cal
State Northridge majoring in Business. There he competed in
Water Polo and Swimming and was selected as MVP (Swimming) in
October 9th 1964, George met Barbara Shepherd at a
fraternity Ė sorority exchange. She saw him walk through the
door and she had to meet him. They married on February 12th,
1966. After graduating with a B.S. in 1965, he entered Navel
Officerís Candidate School and was commissioned in 1966. He
served as communications officer on the destroyer USS SAMUEL
N. MOORE for three years including two tours to Vietnam. Upon
returning to civilian life he earned a masters degree and
teaching credential from USC and began his teaching career in
Long Beach in 1970.
1975, Barbara gave birth to their redheaded daughter Kelly.
George was teaching her to swim at three months and strapped
on skis before she could walk. In 1977, their family grew once
more with the addition of their son Michael. Michael became
his dadís fishing partner and off-road buddy in Georgeís 1970
Toyota Land Cruiser.
taught at Jordan then Lakewood where he coached swimming and
water polo before transferring to Poly in 1982. In 1985, he
was asked to take over the Cross Country and Swim programs.
for those celebrated cross-country teams, George was honored
by the Century Club as the 1996 Co-coach of the year along
with Jerry Jaso and Terry Kennedy and the 1999 Coach of the
year. He was also honored as the 1997 and 2000 CIF Cross
Country Coach of the year and was a State CIF honor coach in
George was a mountain-man at his core and enjoyed his summers
and vacations in Mammoth Lakes, California. His parents
introduced him to this area during family vacations, a
tradition he continued with his wife and children. The Sierras
were Georgeís favorite playground where he loved backpacking,
fishing, skiing and did much of his triathlon training.
Friends there will remember him as an ever-ready training
partner. Coach Wright shared the beautiful Eastern Sierras
with over 300 of his athletes through cross-country training
camps and senior swim ski trips.
His passion for triathlon and competitive spirit led him to 12
age group National Championships, 2 Ironman World
Championships and 1 World International Distance Championship.
He finished the Ironman Triathlon, which consists of a
2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike and 26.2 mile run, this October
with a time of 10 hours and 48 minutes earning him second
place in his age group.
the past few months his priority was taking his wife Barbara
to her doctorís appointments and making sure she was staying
fit and strong for her battle with lung cancer. They were
going to celebrate their fortieth wedding anniversary this
February. They had plans to travel, ski, and spend time with
their grandsonís Joshua and Daniel. George wanted to return
to Ironman in 2006 to improve his time.
George is survived buy his wife Barbara, his children Kelly
and Mike, his grandchildren Joshua and Daniel, his brother
Don, sister-in-law Charlotte, and nephew Alex.
celebration of life will be held in memory of George Wright on
Saturday, December 10, 2005 at 11:00 a.m. at Long Beach Poly
High School in the auditorium. A reception will follow the
memorial service in the rose garden. The Wright Family has set
up a scholarship fund in his memory and donations may be made
to Long Beach Poly High School.
will be there on December 10th, and Iíll see a lot of
people I know. Iíll also see a lot of people I donít know, boys
and men who were touched by George, all the better for having
George Wright died too young. Happily, there was ample time
during his life for the best of George to find its way into more
young men than I can count. George set a high bar for them, and
for me. But it wasnít until the last years of his life that
George Wright demonstrated, by his example, the very best a man
may command of himself.
I will not forget George Wright. I am better for the guidance
and comfort his example provides, and in so stating I imagine I
write on behalf of thousands he has touched.