1924 - 2007, Montecito
With family and friends at her side, Eleanor died peacefully in her home in Montecito on Oct. 30, 2007. During a five-year illness, her indomitable spirit never wavered. She was widely known and respected for her generosity, volunteer work, and leadership, primarily in the social services area, where she worked enthusiastically to create and build a social safety net for those individuals most in need. In 1977, she was honored as Santa Barbara's Woman of the Year by the Santa Barbara Foundation.
Eleanor White Wright was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on May 17, 1924, to Eleanor Bradley White and W. King White. She and her twin brother, W. King White, Jr., along with her younger brother Charles Bradley White and sister Katherine Ann White Boni, grew up in Cleveland, attending the games of the Cleveland Indians baseball team of which her uncle was an owner.
Eleanor attended the Ethel Walker School in Simsbury, Connecticut, and later Bennington College, graduating in 1946 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology. She considered the personalized, innovative education she received at Bennington one of the best experiences of her life. During this pivotal time, she was greatly influenced by professors, teachers and writers at the college, such as W.H. Auden, R. Buckminster Fuller, Martha Graham, Albert Einstein, and Eric Fromm.
In 1947, she married Clifford Ramsey Wright, Jr. of Cincinnati, Ohio. Moving to New Haven, Connecticut, in order for Clifford, a young army veteran, to attend Yale University, they made lifelong friends with other young families, such as George and Barbara Bush.
In 1959, Eleanor and Clifford moved to Montecito. They wanted a semi-rural setting in which to raise an assortment of animals and their five children. Eleanor energetically entered into community life, advocating forcefully for the many and varied causes she championed.
In 1983-84, she was the Campaign Chairman of the Combined Health Agencies Drive. She served as a Director for the 19th Agricultural District Board. At various times she served on the boards of the Santa Barbara Mental Health Association, Citizens Planning Association, the Family Service Agency, the Community Counseling Center and the Santa Barbara County Civil Service Commission. The Santa Barbara Mental Health Association named a set of apartments for her, the "Eleanor Apartments." She was one of the four founders of Phoenix House of Santa Barbara, which provides services and housing for recovering mental health patients. As a tribute to her work with mental health patients, the residential facility, the "Wright Building," bears her name.
In 1989, she received the News Press Lifetime Achievement award. In 1992, for twelve years of leadership and service to the Santa Barbara City College and the Foundation for Santa Barbara City College, she received a Special Commendation. In 2003, she received Special Congressional Recognition for her outstanding and invaluable service to the Community.
Her wide-ranging interests in community affairs also included her support for the Braille Institute, Planned Parenthood, Republicans for Choice, Men Against Domestic Violence, Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center, the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara, and the Visiting Nurse and Hospice Care (Serenity House).
She was a member of Birnam Wood Country Club and an avid tennis player. However, her greatest love and joy was her family. She is survived by her beloved husband, Clifford, her four sons, Clifford R. Wright III and his wife Margaret, Moe R. Wright and his wife Becky, Glen W. Wright and his wife Tina, W. King Wright and his wife Nancy, and daughter Katharine Wright Sundown. She is also survived by twelve grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, her sister Katherine Boni of Paris, France, and many nieces, nephews and cousins.
For those who desire, in lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Phoenix House of Santa Barbara, the Family Service Agency of Santa Barbara, or Visiting Nurse and Hospice Care of Santa Barbara. The family will determine a future time to celebrate and remember Eleanor's life of love and accomplishment.