John E. Wright was born on May 12, 1922 in Boston, the fourth oldest of 13 children. He was raised on a farm where are they had a large garden and animals to eat so they fared well and helped neighbors during the depression years.
After High School he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps. During the next two years he helped to build roads through Franconia Notch, New Hampshire and the surrounding area.
He returned home at 18 and worked on the farm and as a mechanic.
The day after the attack on Pearl Harbor he joined the Navy with many of his friends. He was 19. After a quick Boot Camp in Newport, Rhode Island in January 1942 his first and only tour was as Boatswains Mate 2nd Class on the USS Indiana BB58, a South Dakota class battleship. Being part of her Commissioning crew, November 21, 1942 , gave him Plank Owner distinction. His piece of planking was proudly displayed in his home from her scrapping until this fall and now in his daughter’s home. She was decommissioned on Sept. 21, 1948 and scrapped in 1963. Her mast, prow, and a set of guns are now on display at the Indiana University Memorial Stadium where he visited and reminisced with shipmates in his beloved reunion group.
Part of his job included being a spotter and loading the 16 inch guns during their nine major battles in the Pacific Theater. Over four years they engaged with gunfire from the islands and shot down many enemy planes. During one such battle John actually made angry eye contact with a Kamikaze pilot that they shot down as the plane and pilot went to their watery grave barely missing BB58. He spent time in Hawaii while she was being repaired after a collision. He was a driver to his Commanding Officer during that time which he immensely enjoyed, especially the unexpected privileges that were provided.
After his honorable discharge he returned to Massachusetts where he met and married the love of his life , Augusta Buchanan. After their son was born they moved to Homestead, Florida where he worked for the Coca-Cola Corp. After resettling in Easton several years later, they had a daughter and fostered a niece and nephew before relocating to Arizona and then California. After only a few years they once again returned to Easton, this time permanently. He returned to HP Hood Inc. for 25 years to a strenuous job which he always enjoyed because he loved to meet new people and stay fit. And meet people he did. It was a rare occasion to go anywhere where John didn’t run into someone he knew which turned into a great conversation to the dismay of his bored children. And he was fit enough to swing a stack of 4 heavy milk crates knocking down a robber who had just tried to shoot him but fortunately the gun misfired. Retirement did not slow him down for a minute. He worked part time for a brother-in-law delivering flowers and a friend at S. Easton Motor Sales as a runner until he was 88 years old and only gave that up because the VA turned him in to the DMV for driving while legally blind.
John and his wife were the first people to lend a helping hand to anyone that needed it. Whether it was a ride, home repairs, food, or needing a place to live, John could be and always was counted on by family and friends alike. They attended St. Mark’s Episcopal Church where John served on the vestry and various other committees over the years. He never settled into another church yet his faith remained strong and he set aside prayer time twice a day. John and Gussie instilled faith, good citizenship, and a responsibility to others along with an abiding patriotism in their children & grandchildren. John was a member Norton American Legion for decades until it closed and then he transferred to the Easton VFW Post 701 . He had 55 continuous years of membership in good standing. As any true Navy man, he played Cribbage with a passion yet never quite made that 29 hand. He loved to read, garden, swim, and road trip with his family. He had a knack for picking the rainiest week of summer to take his family camping where their first treat was him making the kids dig a trench around the tent that and Gussie pitched in the inevitable downpour. He and Gussie fostered children for over 20 years, adopting one who stole their hearts the minute they saw her.
Beginning in 1972 right up until 2019 the USS Indiana reunion group met regularly in different locations around the country making them the longest continuous reunion group in the nation. They were attended by hundreds of shipmates. John only missed a few and it was a most important goal to attend with his shipmates as they were bonded like family. As their numbers naturally dwindled over the years it became a mission to meet once a year to reconnect and raise a little hell. The Dept. of the Navy invited them and their families to both the Christening and the Commissioning of the newest USS Indiana, SSN 789, a Virginia class nuclear submarine. John and his shipmates we’re feted and honored by the Navy and John said he was “happy to finally pass the Indiana onto these young sailors after shouldering the responsibility for all those decades.” That’s what she meant to him. Those were emotional and exciting experiences for John to share with his loved ones. The end of that era saw the last 6 Sailors that could travel and their families enjoying their last reunion in Indianapolis, Indiana in 2019 where they had a very touching memorial service at the prow of their beloved battleship. In 2015 John was accompanied by his grandson Michael on a New England Honor Flight to Washington DC for an incredible day with other WWII veterans to visit the WWII Memorial, a luncheon, and bus tour. In 2016 he was honored as a Co-Marshal of the Easton Veterans Day parade.
He remained living in Easton and enjoyed any time he could spend outside. In his later years John walked countless miles and chatted with neighbors throughout the NRT Sheep Pasture. He loved listening to books on tape as his eyes failed He especially loved any gatherings with his family and even though 2020 put a damper on that, he was a trooper and was honored and thrilled to “see real people” with a surprise drive-by birthday party for his 98th birthday. On his 99th Birthday John was surprised and honored with a video message and cap from the Plank Owners of the SSN 789 Indiana which was hand delivered by four of her Sailors. They spent time with him and asked about his experiences on BB58. It was an extraordinary day. It was not a bad way to end nine decades of birthdays.
John was predeceased by his late parents; Charles and Mary Jane (MacDonald) Wright; his beloved wife, the late Augusta Olive (Buchanan) Wright; his late son John, Jr. and his wife, the late Kathy Wright; brothers, the late Charles, Norman, Lawrence, Donald and Warren Wright; late sisters: Dorothea Foley, Barbara Parr, Elizabeth Clark and Pearl Parker. He is survived by his daughters; Cheryl and her husband Kenneth Belcher and Heather Wright; brother; Paul Wright and sisters; Jean Walter and Nancy Pierro; grandchildren; Tammy and her husband Dana Somers, Jennifer and her husband Tim Bridgeman, John and his wife Bobbi Wright, Peter and his wife Emily Wright, Michael and his wife Sarah Cole, Kenneth and his wife Laura Belcher and Deanna and her husband, John Morgan. He also leaves behind eleven great grandchildren, fourteen great-great grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews.
Visitation will take place on Saturday, January 22, 2022 from 9:00AM - 10:30PM at the Southeast Funeral Home, 93 Center St., Easton. A graveside service will immediately follow at Knowllwood Cemetery, 321 High St., Canton at 11:15AM. Please enter and gather through the Administration Building for procession. Relatives and friends respectfully invited to attend. Due to the spike in COVID related illnesses, a gathering after the services will not be held.
In lieu of flowers, donations in John's memory may be made to the United States Navy Memorial and Naval Heritage Center. Please visit: https://www.navymemorial.org/general-donation
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