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Friday, June 2, 2023
2:00 - 2:30 pm (Eastern time)
The words park and service describe the entire arc of David Wright’s life. His service started in high school as a lifesaving instructor, lifeguard, and maintenance employee at Atwood Lake Park, and by the end of his life he had served over 55 years in the field of parks and recreation management. During that long career he worked in all 50 states and traveled to 35 countries. Reflecting on it he chuckled, “I never thought I’d be more than a parks maintenance employee living in Ohio, and I must have taught half of the kids in New Philadelphia how to swim.”
David Wright was always very clever at solving mechanical puzzles. He honed his skills by hopping up cars and motorcycles with his boyhood friends John and Jerry. At the start of the Korean War, they all joined the U.S. Air Force and served as strategic air command flight mechanics, in the 326th Bomber Squadron. They all told versions of the same story: soon after David was transferred to a new U.S. SAC base, John would show up, followed a few weeks later by Jerry, and they always figured out how to have their motorcycles transferred with them. After they were discharged, they took different career paths but stayed lifelong friends and remained mechanical geniuses to anyone who knew them.
After his Air Force service, David returned to his hometown of New Philadelphia, Ohio. His former boss, Harvey Crass, told him to have a real career in parks management you need to get your degree in landscape architecture. At the same time, he became reacquainted with Donna Yosick, a high school friend and fellow lifeguard who was then a nurse at the local hospital. They courted for six months and married in September of 1955, just before David began his studies at Ohio State University. After graduating in 1959, David and Donna returned to New Philadelphia one last time, where he worked as deputy director of the Muskingum Conservancy District and Donna worked at Union Hospital. Four years later they made their first move out of Ohio to further David’s career.
In 1964 he worked at the American Institute of Park Executives as the managing editor of Parks and Recreation magazine. In 1966 he helped found the National Recreation and Park Association, David, Donna, and their two children moved to McLean, Virginia, and he became the director of field service for the NRPA. In 1969 David started his career in the U.S. National Park Service as a staff planner for troubled construction projects. In 1974 he moved to Denver, Colorado as associate center manager, then to Atlanta, Georgia as deputy regional director of the NPS southeast region. He returned to Washington, D.C. as the NPS assistant director of planning design and construction for all facilities in the NPS system. While in Washington, he became a charter member of the Senior Executive Service, testified at many congressional budget hearings, led USAID-sponsored international affairs goodwill trips to China, Poland (prior to lifting of the iron curtain), Saudi Arabia, and many other countries, and hosted and guided visiting international park official delegations through National Park visits all over the U.S.
Dave and Donna moved to Shepherdstown, West Virginia in 1986 when he became the director of Harpers Ferry Design Center, responsible for exhibits, films, and interpretive stories for all the NPS parks. He retired from the National Park Service in 1997 but stayed in Shepherdstown and continued his service as an 8-year member of the Jefferson County Parks and Recreation Commission. He and Donna traveled the world with NPS friends for many years. Dave also mastered hydroponic vegetable gardening in their greenhouse and turned complex wooden bowls on his lathe. In 2018 they moved to Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community, where he passed away in his sleep.
David George Wright was born on March 13, 1931, in New Philadelphia, Ohio, United States. Son of Clarence Albert and Martha Gertrude (Waltz) Wright, he is survived by his wife Donna (Yosick), sisters Linda Hughes (Bob), and Elaine Thomas, brother-in-law Paul Yosick (Barbara), daughter Susan Estes (Rick), son Steven Wright (Linda), granddaughter Shelby Estes Day (Hunter) and many nieces and nephews.
Please make any donations to the Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community Foundation. https://vmrc.org/donate-vmrc-foundation/