Omar Leslie Wright

Omar Leslie Wright died Jan. 10, 2006. He was 86.

Wright was born to Steward Grant and Hazel Alza Howell Wright on April 10, 1919, while the country was staggering from the effects of World War I.

He was the second of five children; one older sister, Wilma Bakewell of North Platte, Neb., and three younger brothers, Leo (deceased), Earl, of Lake Wales, Fla., and Gerald of Oceanside, Calif.

Wright was born and raised on a farm near Almena, Kan., the same farm on which his father was born and raised.

A bad blizzard roared across the Kansas prairie the night before Wright was born. The snow covered fences and roads, making foot travel the only option. His mother recently had survived a flu epidemic that had taken the lives of many of their friends and acquaintances. His parents were unable to find a doctor, so his father walked several miles to bring back a neighbor woman, who attended his birth.

Wright especially loved helping his father and riding his horse, Ranger. He also loved to tell stories about his adventures on his saddle horse.

Music was a big part of his life. His family and friends say he told wonderful stories about Saturday night dances in the neighborhood. He learned to chord the piano and organ and played the mouth harp, guitar and fiddle.

After graduating from Almena High School, Wright headed for Hamburg, Iowa, with $5 in his pocket and a dozen pairs of corn-shucking gloves.

In spring 1939, he got a job working for Ormas Smith. On Sept. 30, 1940, he married Aileen Smith, his boss's daughter. Three children were born to the couple, Sharon, Norman and Joan.

Aileen died a few hours after the birth of Joan. Wright was 25, with three motherless children. After the crops were harvested, he returned to Norton, Kan., with his children. He worked as a farmer and eventually a carpenter and cabinet builder.

In 1954, Wright, along with his children, returned to Hamburg, Iowa, to farm his father-in-law's place. A year-and-a-half later, they returned to Norton, where they bought their own house and Wright returned to work for his former boss.

After his children graduated from high school, he moved his mother in with him. He continued to care for her until she entered a nursing home. On Nov. 20, 1982, Wright married Nina Phillips. With this marriage, he had five more children, Floy, Carole, Wayne, Robert and Don.

In 1986, Wright and Nina moved from their house in Norton to Craig, where they would be closer to some of their children. Wright grew gardens, especially green beans.

In 1995, ready for a new adventure, he and Nina, along with their daughter Sharon and her husband, George Durham, moved to Lakeside, Mont. They lived for five years in a log cabin by Flathead Lake.

Declining health brought them back to a senior living apartment in Craig. On June 12, 2004, Nina passed away. The remainder of Wright's life was spent in a nursing home. The last year was at Sandrock Ridge Care and Rehab in Craig.

He is survived by his brothers; Earl (Winona) of Lake Wales, Fla., and Gerald (Ursula) of Oceanside, Calif.; sister Wilma Blakewell of North Platte, Neb.; daughters Sharon (George) Durham of Craig, and Joan (Steve) Feagins of Dayton, Wyo.; son Norma (Margie) of Proctor, Mont.; and stepchildren Floy King of Rock Port, Mo., Carole (Don) Aspedon of Van Buren, Ark., Wayne (Bev) Phillips of Hamburg, Iowa, and Robert Phillips of Wichita, Kan.

Wright, known as "Grandpa Omie," is survived by 46 grandchildren, 59 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his parents, wife Aileen, wife Nina, brother Leo Wright, stepson Myles Phillips, and two step-grandchildren.

A funeral was held Jan. 14, 2006, at the First Christian Church in Craig, with David Carrick officiating. Musical selections were "Silver Haired Daddy" and "Good Night and Good Morning," performed by Wanda Brown and Becky Field. Johnny Barton performed special musical numbers. Honorary pallbearers were Randy Fresquez, Shayn Shultze, Brett Wright, Rod Durham, Dusty Shultze and Bryan Wright. Another funeral was held on Jan. 17, 2006 at Rash Funeral Home in Hamburg, Iowa.

Interment was at the Hamburg cemetery.

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