Sunday, October 11, 2009

Darryl Wright Remembered

A Celebration of the Life of Darryl Wright was held at the Tantalum Restaurant in Long Beach on Friday October 9th. A very heart-warming day with Darryl's old friends and family sharing stories and memories. Click here to watch video of Darryl's Life.

From USC Fan

There was no way you could talk to Darryl Wright during any UCLA football game without seeing the passion that he had for his beloved Bruins. His eyes were fire red, the veins in his neck stuck out, and God forbid if you were a Trojan who happened to find his way near Darryl during a close Bruin game. You would need Tommy Trojan PLUS to get out of that situation…
That was the Darryl for four hours during a game at the Rose Bowl…not the Darryl I knew AWAY from the football field. He was a wonderfully easy person to talk to, about a variety of subjects, and if you were on his side of the aisle politically, you were granted immunity from his gentle barbs and sarcastic wit. I always looked forward to the time I got to spend with Darryl, and I am sure he will be up “there” waving a UCLA towel on Saturdays when his beloved Bruins take the field, making sure that everyone in his immediate area knows the “8 Count” clap……………

Jim Marsh
USC Basketball 1965-1968
Portland Trail Blazers

Long Beach Press-Telegram
LB's Wright recalled as a beloved supporter
September 17, 2009


A long-time fixture on the local athletic scene going back to those three seasons between 1961 and 1963 when he was a starting two-way lineman for the Long Beach State football team, Darryl Wright was a beloved gentleman known for his strong allegiance to UCLA and to the Dirtbags.

Wright, who passed away Tuesday morning from complications stemming from diabetes at age 67, held Bruin football season tickets for more than four decades, and was a fervent booster of the 49ers sporting teams, especially the baseball program for which he developed a strong fondness.

"Darryl would attend all the Dirtbag games at Blair Field, and often went on the road with the team," says Jeff Fellenzer, a Wilson High graduate and former sportswriter who now teaches a sports business class at USC. "Darryl just loved sports. I can't tell you how many times we'd pick out the best high school football game in the area, and spend Friday night watching those games from the sidelines at Veterans Stadium and other places. He also was a big fan of the Los Alamitos High football team."

A native of Glendale where his father, Hal Wright, was a mayor and a close friend of Casey Stengel, Big Boy's founder Bob Wian and UCLA football coach Henry (Red) Sanders, Darryl Wright had a most interesting childhood.

"Darryl and his father attended all those World Series Stengel's New York Yankee teams played in during the 1950s as guests of Stengel," relates another close friend of Wright, Don Dyer, the retired Long Beach attorney who now resides in Anacortes on the San Juan Islands in Washington. "Darryl told me he'd return with a bunch of baseballs, and would play with them in pickup games. He regretted not saving any of them."

"There were always UCLA football players eating at Darryl's house when he was a kid," Fellenzer says. "It was only natural he would become a football player. He was a receiver when he was in high school."

And, apparently, such an accomplished one that his coach at Glendale High, the legendary Roy Vujovich, recently penned a letter to Wright, saying in it, "You could run and catch like no one else. You were the best end we ever had at Glendale. And you also were an outstanding blocker."

Darryl Wright also was quite a humorist who kept people laughing at the many 49er athletic fund-raisers in which he served as the emcee.

"Darryl was one of the funniest guys I ever knew," says Wilson High graduate Keith Cordes, the retired FBI agent who now resides in Bend, Ore. "I remember last year coming back to Long Beach, and going with Darryl over to Joe Jost. And within a few minutes we were surrounded by people listening to Darryl's stories. He was a great storyteller."

"Darryl always was the life of the party," says Carolyn Gabraith-Woodruff, whose insurance company in the 1980s was in the same Naples building where Wright's worker's comp insurance business was located. "Darryl wasn't a drinker, but once a year at Christmas he'd cut loose. We'd start at the old Trani's in San Pedro, go to the Princess Louise, and wind up at Kelly's. It was a blast, and Darryl kept us all laughing with his one-liners."

Actually, Darryl Wright was so adroit with his one-liners that his SAE fraternity brother at Long Beach State, Bobby Hatfield, employed Wright as an opening warm-up act on a few occasions when he and his partner Bill Medley - better known as the Righteous Brothers - were first starting off and playing small venues around Long Beach.

"Darryl easily could have done standup comedy," Fellenzer says. "He was hilarious."

"I'm not sure anyone alive loved UCLA athletics more than Darryl," Long Beach attorney Bob Edmondson says.

"Darryl was just such a sweet guy," says Susie Atwood, the Olympic swimmer who owns a State Farm Insurance agency in Naples. "He always had a smile on his face."

But Darryl Wright endured difficult times in recent years, as he began struggling with his health.

In 2006, he had his leg amputated below his left knee, and shortly thereafter had to undergo kidney dialysis three times a week.

He had been residing at the Shoreline Health Care Center on Anaheim St.
"I'd visit Darryl often, and he never complained and always was upbeat," Fellenzer says. "We'd just talk sports for hours. And he always had great stories to tell like the one about his being at the 1953 World Series in New York between the Yankees and Dodgers. He related how he drove on the Yankee team bus to Brooklyn, and how the Dodger fans egged the Yankee bus. He had a ball autographed by all those 1953 Yankees, but I guess he was too young to realize its importance. He ruined it playing in street games."

Darryl Wright was a Century Club member and also a member of the Orange County Bruin Booster Club, for which he once served as president.
Jeff Fellenzer revealed that Wright was an Old West devotee - films, Zane Grey novels, cowboy actors - and had quite a collection of Western artifacts which he occasionally displayed at elementary schools.

Wright was married twice, and is survived by a son, Matt Wright, his wife Michelle, two grandchildren and a younger brother, Jerry, of Orange.

"Darryl Wright was a man's man who was beloved by the women in his life, and you don't find that every day," Jeff Fellenzer says. "He was a life force in that he made a strong impression on everyone who knew him. And everyone who knew him liked him. ..."

Thanks Darryl

"We all know UCLA is a special place, and that special people make it so. We are all privileged indeed to encounter fellow Bruins whose love of the school and particularly the athletic program serves as a beacon of enthusiasm and inspiration. The Athletic Department is aware that we lost such a Bruin a few weeks back, when the diabetes he so valiantly fought for many years claimed the life of Darryl Wright.

UCLA fans number in the millions, and from the University's perspective, every one is much appreciated. There are a few, however, who do those special things and make those extraordinary efforts so as to stand out among the faithful, and Darryl was in that special category. When he spoke of UCLA football, you could see in his face and hear in his voice the pride and passion.

On behalf of the entire athletic department and particularly the football program, please accept our heartfelt condolences for the loss of someone with uncommon allegiance to the Blue and Gold."

Dan Guerrero
Athletic Director

From Terry Donahue:

Jeff Thanks for letting me know! Really sorry to hear about that . I concur with all of your observations regarding Darryl. I am sorry but I cannot attend the gathering but have written something that you could read on my behalf. I am really sorry I cannot be there as he was truly a great Bruin. All the best and thanks for including me! TD

"Like all Bruins I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Darryl Wright. His passion and enthusiasm for UCLA football were unmatched.He worked tirelessly to inspire the Bruin nation but above all else he always kept his sense of humor.He continually made us all laugh no matter what the circumstances.We will always be forever grateful to him for that. GO BRUINS!! "

Terry Donahue
Former UCLA Head Football Coach

From Bill Husak...

"I was so sorry to hear of Darryl's death. He was a great guy who always had a smile on his face and was full of life--he made you feel special and comfortable. I know he will be missed by all. Please know that he will be in my thoughts. Tish and I send our condolences and best wishes...."

Bill Husak
Athletic Director
Loyola Marymount University
Former Long Beach State associate athletic director

From Jeff Fellenzer

When I think of Darryl, I will always think of...

--His sense of humor, and especially those corny jokes
--Darryl the Actor: Playing the role of the "disgruntled USC football fan" at the Coliseum…priceless!
--Ticket brokers: Trying to get the guy outside the stadium holding up the "Need Tickets" sign together with the guy a few feet away holding up the "2 Tickets for Sale" sign...hilarious!
--Those corny jokes
--Friday night lights…so many high school football games we saw over the years
--UCLA Football
--Long Beach State Dirtbag Baseball
--His thoughtfulness and kindness, especially his friendship with my mother; he used to give her rides wherever she needed to go, and they’d spend hours talking; then, when she passed away suddenly in 2002, Darryl dropped what he was doing to help me for the next two weeks as I prepared for the service
--Those music CDs he loved to make for his friends…great gifts!
--That laugh and that great smile
--Hanging out with me, family and friends at my house in Lake Arrowhead
--The friendships I made through him—Bob Edmondson, Peter Edmunds, all of the Orange County Bruin boosters
--His support on everything—the word "no" just wasn't in his vocabulary; he was always so supportive and encouraging
--Our annual trip with John Wooden to the Knott’s Berry Farm Chicken Dinner Restaurant
--The way he fought through his challenges the past three years, never complaining…we rarely talked about his physical condition, he didn't seem to have time for that
--His love of people, his zest for life and the biggest heart of anyone I ever knew