George Wright Memorial
Email Tributes

George Wright at the Summer Solstice 5 mile run 06/23/05 - photo by Mark Kariya


R.I.P. George Wright our friend and inspiration.
Following is information as it is currently known.
The services "Celebration of Life" for George Wright will be held Saturday December 10th, 11:00am in the Polytechnic  High School Auditorium.
Poly High School is located at:
1600 Atlantic Blvd., Long Beach
Following the services there will be a "pot luck" (more on this later)
Barbara Wright has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to the George Wright Memorial XC Scholarship Fund.
The scholarship fund is being established at Poly to
provide scholarships for runners in need.  Athletes will be supported
in a variety of ways, including the purchase of shoes, uniforms, and
financial support in competitions.  If you are interested in donating
to the fund, please send your check made out and sent to:
Long Beach Polytechnic High School 
(The George Wright Memorial Scholarship Fund)
c/o Long Beach Poly HS, 1600 Atlantic Avenue, Long Beach, CA 90813.
or you can leave contributions at TRH workouts and we will forward them to Poly.
Sometime in early January there will be a George Wright Memorial run in Heartwell Park (more on this later).

The "Celebration of Life" memorial for George Wright was held Saturday, December 10, 2005 morning in the Auditorium of Poly High School. It was a beautiful morning for the occasion and there was a huge turnout.
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 Fillipow.
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 Wright.
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.
Following is a Dec 7th posting on
George Wright
by Dan Empfield 12.7.05

I 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 triathlon.

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 apart.

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.

I 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 in 1943.

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 Georgeís death.

He 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 1961.

On 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.

In 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.

He 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.

As 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 2001.

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. 

In 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.

A 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.

I 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 known him.

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.


George and friends (Nate, Nicole & Becky) at the Summer Solstice 5 miler in June 2005


George Wright with his 2002 Poly squad & Mike Fillipow



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