Omar Leslie Wright, 1919-2006
On April 10, 1919, while the country was staggering from the effects of World War I, Omar Leslie Wright was born to Steward Grant and Hazel Alza Howell Wright. 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. Omar was born and raised on a farm near Almena, Kan., the same farm where his father was born and raised.
A bad blizzard roared across the Kansas prairie the night before Omar was born. The snow-covered fences and road made foot travel the only option. His mother had recently survived a flu epidemic that had taken the lives of many of the family’s friends and acquaintances. His parents were unable to contact a doctor, so his father walked several miles to bring back a neighbor woman who attended his birth. Omar was an active little boy. He especially loved helping his father and riding his horse, Ranger. Omar loved to tell stories of his adventures on his saddle horse.
Music was a big part of Omar’s life. He told wonderful stories of 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 in Almena, Kan., Omar headed for Hamburg, Iowa. He had $5 in his pocket and a dozen pairs of corn-shucking gloves.
Early in the spring of 1939, Omar got a job working for Ormas Smith. On Sept. 30, 1940, Omar married the boss’ daughter, Aileen Smith. Three children were born to them: Sharon, Norman and Joan. Aileen passed away a few hours after the birth of Joan. Omar was 25 years old with three motherless children. After the crops were harvested, Omar moved back to Norton, Kan., with his children. Omar worked as a farmer and eventually a carpenter and cabinet builder.
In 1954, Omar, along with his children, moved back to Hamburg, Iowa, to farm his father-in-law’s place. A year and a half later, they returned to Norton. There, they bought their own house and Omar went back to work for his former boss.
After his children graduated from high school, Omar moved his mother in with him. He continued to care for her until she entered a nursing home. On Nov. 20, 1982, Omar married Nina Phillips. With this marriage, Omar gained five more children to bless his life: Floy, Carole, Wayne, Robert and Don.
In 1986, Omar and Nina moved from their house in Norton, Kan., to Craig, where they would be closer to some of their children. Omar grew wonderful gardens, especially green beans.
In 1995, ready for a new adventure, Omar 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, Omar’s wife, Nina, passed away. The remainder of Omar’s life was spent in a nursing home. The last year was at Sandrock Ridge in Craig, where he was happy and had many friends. Omar passed away Jan. 10, 2006.
Omar is survived by his brothers; Earl (Winona) of Lake Wales, Fla., and Gerald (Ursula) of Oceanside, Calif.; sister, Wilma Bakewell of North Platte, Neb.; daughters Sharon (George) Durham of Craig, and Joan (Steve) Feagins of Dayton, Wyo.; son Norman (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, Robert Phillips of Watson, Mo. and Don (Debbie) Phillips of Wichita, Kan.
Omar, affectionately known as “Grandpa Omie,” is survived by 46 grandchildren, 59 great-grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren.
Omar was preceded in death by his parents; his wife Aileen; his wife Nina; his brother Leo Wright; one stepson, Myles Phillips; and two step-grandchildren,
Funeral services were held on Jan. 14, 2006, at the First Christian Church in Craig, and Jan. 17, 2006, at Rash Funeral Home in Hamburg, Iowa. Interment was at the Hamburg cemetery.
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There is a chill in the air, and snow covers the ground outside a farmhouse west of Hayden as Noah Price and Sydney Ellbogen talk about the operations of Mountain Bluebird Farm.