First Impressions, Church Lessons, and Responsibility

Curator’s Note: This is a note shared by Jared Brueckner, a friend from church in Texas who met Jack and family when they first moved there in 2008.

I was unable to attend (Jack’s headstone ceremony), but still want to share a few short memories of Jack for the future.

Ashlee and I moved to Texas from Boston. In the frenzy of meeting everyone it was common to forget names and not remember whom you had met, whom you hadn’t met. That was very different with Jack. His imposing size and kind nature were immediately recognizable. Me being a jokester and liking to have fun and tease – I immediately recognized a similar soul in Jack. It didn’t take but a few minutes to begin joking with Jack and having fun with him. His huge smile and propensity to have a good time made him someone that I always gravitated to. Soon after moving into the ward there was the ward Talent Show. I was the MC and I had spent time arranging my jokes and introductions. As the night moved on Jack was more than willing to be involved in the jokes and he was always willing to laugh when he was in the joke. His fun loving personality was second to none. He loved to joke, have fun, and be around others who liked the same things.

The week that I was called to the Teacher’s Quorum Jack was teaching a combined lesson. Jack and I were still getting to know each other so I didn’t know what to expect. He delivered a masterful lesson using street signs and the scriptures. Thought I could tell he was in immense pain throughout the lesson he never once broke stride. He would occasionally wince in pain, but never stop teaching. The young men are not easy to teach, often times it is like herding cats. He had a unique ability to hold everyone’s attention and make them understand the lesson. That day I learned to look up to him as a teacher. He gave me a standard to look up to and something to strive for.

Jack taught me the Concealed Carry class, and certified me to get my permit. We were becoming acquainted and had begun to talk about doing several things, from shooting at the range to days at the park with the kids. He pulled me aside one day and asked if I would like to take part in his course. That day I learned something more than just rules and regulations, I learned about Jack’s deep feelings of responsibility for protection of others. Everything he taught us was guided by a desire to protect his loved ones, and protect those who cannot protect themselves. He truly cared for others and it came through in everything that he did.

Jack was many things to many people. To me, I will always remember him as someone I would have liked to know more and spent more time with. That to me tells you everything you would want to know of him.

“Family” Dinners

Curator’s Note: This is a note from Teresa Clark, who became very close with Jack and the family when they lived in Washington. Her thoughts on how Jack made her feel like family are a common thread among those of us who knew him well. Thank you, Teresa, for sharing your memories.

Excuse my tardiness, but I really wanted to dwell a little on my memory of Jack and form my words thoughtfully to share with you and the guests coming (for the headstone ceremony).

Simply put, I have a myriad of vivid memories of conversations/discussions with Jack over our “family” dinners. I say “family” in quotes because although you all are not my blood relatives, we share a connection and I consider you (the Wrights) part of my family. We have shared many meals together as an extended family which I enjoyed and will always hold dear in my memory. Jack had a presence, physically and spiritually, and a passion for whatever he was talking about. I loved to listen to him talk, with such conviction, and share his opinion, (whether I shared his opinion or not). He was a smart guy, a funny guy, a loving family man. So many people are lucky to have known him and I am one of them.

I will miss you Jack. Please look out for us.

Love, Teresa Clark and family

Larger Than Life Charismatic Storyteller

Curator’s Note: This is a story from a good friend of ours from Springville, Wendy Johnson (Roberts). Thank you, Wendy, for sharing such detailed memories. I laughed more than once remembering these stories.

When I was 18, I met Kirk. He had always been in my peripheral vision. He was that really tall, big guy that was super funny, but I was mildly intimidated by him because he towered over me, and most of our classmates too! I was a nerd girl, and an artist. I was friendly, but insecure and was not noticed by the guys in our class. Or perhaps I was a fashion disaster. Actually, I know I was a fashion disaster. For whatever reason, I really didn’t go out on a lot of dates until college, and I found my place amongst the Dungeons and Dragons, drama, and artist people. Kirk was not nerdy, so we didn’t have much in common during many of our school years, and he hung out with a different group of friends. So it took all the way until our senior party (literally the day we were graduating) for me to actually meet Josh Bancroft (who is a nerd – and I mean that as a compliment/statement of fact), and by extension, I finally met Kirk. At that time, if you knew one of them, you knew both of them. They were always together, like brothers (except they didn’t beat each other up or squabble over who got to be Optimus Prime). (Little does she know… – Josh) I spent many happy hours visiting and sometimes double dating with Josh as my date, and one of my friends as Kirk’s date. Most of the time we would just get together and talk and maybe play pool, go out to eat, or drive around and listen to amazing tales that were from a world of Kirk’s own making. Kirk’s world was more vivid than the one I knew. Everything was a little more sinister, amazing, ridiculous, or obvious. He was one of the best storytellers I have known. I can name a short list of maybe five people who have a similar level of storytelling charisma, and that’s all out of the many, many people I have met in this life. He was really unique! Anything could be made into a monologue that somehow transported you into this alternate Kirk-reality. In this dimension, Kirk seemed to be the only guy who really knew how to drive.

I loved it when Kirk would talk about driving. Being a professional truck driver is phenomenally hard, especially pulling multiple trailers. Until I talked to Kirk, I took truck drivers completely for granted. But he told stories about his experiences of trying not to squish stupid little cars who would weave in and out of traffic without understanding how dangerous it is to get in the space in front of a truck. (It is REALLY hard to brake – don’t ever pull into that space!). He would also tell us about watching others learn to drive commercial trucks, and it was fantastic. If someone made a driving mistake, Kirk could make it into an epic tale of jackknifing that should never have happened to anyone (idiot!), and everyone would laugh. If the hapless driver would have been there, he would have laughed too because Kirk was even funny when you were the subject of his teasing. But mostly he told his tales of horrible luck and unbelievable strings of coincidences that made the world seem almost mythical, and certainly it was constantly full of mishaps for Kirk. Of course this was also hilarious to hear. He had a dry, sarcastic wit, and a knowledge of human nature far beyond his years. There was lots of laughter whenever Kirk was talking.

I can only give a synopsis for one of the funniest stories he ever told me, and I will not be able to do ANY justice to his tale. It’s a performance, and he was the only one could tell it right, but it involved a truck of disgusting animal leftovers in liquid form, a brand new pair of boots, and a horrible mishap that ended up spilling the contents of the aforementioned truck all over the aforementioned boots, thus ruining the new boots beyond any desire to save them. His descriptions were vivid. It was horrible, and I laughed so hard that I am still laughing when I think of it all these years later.

Kirk could also tell amazing creepy stories. There was the truck, Legion, that would close or lock its own doors, and start its own engine, and whatever else I have blocked out of my memory for the sake of being able to sleep at night. When he got into creepy story mode, it really made your hair stand on end because he assured you it was ABSOLUTELY true. I always thought he looked a little mischievous at times like this. After that, the wind and the water in the ditch seemed unsettlingly sentient when I would get home.

Kirk knew how to drive, and he knew how to make it look easy. When I stepped into the cabin of the semi once to ride with he and Josh as they drove the truck to some place that it was supposed to be stored, I was completely, absolutely frightened like a ninny by the intimidation factor of that truck. It was huge, and I felt like we were going to mow down every traffic light in town, and plow into every building. It did not seem possible to maneuver something that felt only slightly smaller than an aircraft carrier through the streets of Springville. Yet, I know he drove in places much harder, narrower, and more unlikely. Those old East coast cities have narrow streets, but I know he could drive even them. He really gave me an appreciation for what truck drivers go through to make a living. It is hard work, and he was really gifted. Trucks break down a lot. He could fix a lot of his own mechanical issues with the truck, and since I really didn’t see him at work all that much, I bet he could do a lot more repair work than I ever witnessed.

Kirk and Josh both held down really good jobs starting unusually young. Kirk was driving and had considerable experience in the field by the time I met him. He was very responsible. He seemed much more grown up than I was. Scratch that. He WAS much more grown up than I was. He had a good work ethic, and when he was in his time off, he liked to play just as hard. He didn’t seem to go through a stupid teenager phase. He kind of skipped straight from whatever he was before middle school, straight to being an adult. I meanwhile, snivelled my moody way through college in awe of his grown-up-ness.

I also remember Brand X whenever I think of our times with Kirk and Josh. Both men loved their hamburgers. And those were the best hamburgers I ever tasted. They added some sort of spice to the hamburger, (possibly an addictive drug? Cocaine? or Fry Sauce?) Hmmm.. I dunno, but they were awesome. It’s closed now (Tragedy! – Josh), but I have only eaten burgers a few times in the years since they closed. It’s just not the same!

About a year after I started being friends with Kirk and Josh, I entered the darkest days of my life to date. My Dad passed away leaving me in a deep grief, I cannot begin to describe it. I am so sorry that Kirk has passed young because I know what that means for his kids. Kirk and Josh were there to take my mind off my struggles. I really relied on my network of friends during this time, and I appreciate very much the support and the smiles that they offered during a time where I mostly remember being sad and lost. It is this experience of grieving for my Dad that compels me to write down my memories of Kirk. My Dad’s friends have told me about my Dad, and it is never enough. Fifteen years later, I still cannot be satiated. Every story is a precious treasure, and when I hear a new story, I will think about it and smile for days, no matter how trivial it is. The more I grew up, the more I wanted to know what he was like from the point of view of an adult. And this is what I can tell you in general about Kirk, from my point of view as a fledgling adult just heading off from high school to embrace the potential we all held within us. In general, Kirk was larger than life. He was big and tall, but he had even bigger charisma. He could have been a tough, mean guy, and no one would have been able to do anything about it, but he was very thoughtful and generous instead. Kirk was intimidating if you didn’t know him, but that didn’t last long. He exuded warmth and humor once you had the pleasure of actually talking to him. At the age I knew him (18 – 20) , he was entertaining, thoughtful, generous, mischievous, sarcastic, charismatic, good-natured, honest, blunt but not rude, hilariously paranoid, chivalrous, tough, hard-working, animated, expressive, commanding, strong, competent, mature, independent, well-liked, charmingly superstitious, confidant, full of joy, and smiling most of the time. To Kirk’s kids, I say you have a lot to be proud of in your Dad. The best thing you can do to honor him is to seek a happy life full of meaning and joy. He loved you, and that is what any parent wants for their kids. He was a great person and you are lucky to be his favorite people, and his legacy. And to Kirk, thank you for your friendship! You brightened our lives.

Thoughts from a Friend, Ken Lindebak

Curator’s Note: This is something Alana shared with me from a close friend of the family. I’ve redacted some of the more personal items, but wanted to share the rest.

My name is Ken Lindebak. I’m retired and live in Auburn Washington. My wife Carreen and I became very close friends with Jack and Alana in the last few years.

I firmly believe that nothing in life happens by chance. There are reasons things happen that we do not have the capacity to understand. My daughter was friends with Alana, and that’s how we met Jack and Alana and the kids. We found out very quickly that we shared values and had past experiences that each of us could relate to. This led to a bonding that is something felt and not explained. Carreen became a mother to Alana and I became an advisor and father figure to Jack. In Italian terms, I became a consigliore to him, an advisor on all manner of subjects.

Jack signed his emails to me, “number three son”, and called me Dad–with no disrespect to his own father. Carreen became “mom” to both Jack and Alana, as a sign of their love and respect. Jack was my number three son, and became more of a son than my own two boys.

We came into Jack and Alana’s life during a very difficult three years. We were there when Jack went to the hospital with an infection in his foot which turned out to be the dreaded “Mersa”.

Jack was at war with a deadly bacteria, one that we could see was making steady advances, as each flare-up left him less able to cope. I don’t think many people know how much pain Jack suffered, not only the excruciating physical pain from the infection in the leg and the medications he had to endure, but also the mental pain from the loss of self-esteem—a strong man, unable to move, and unable to financially support his family.

We were fortunate to see Jack and Alana and the kids this last January when they came to Auburn and stayed with us for a week. Jack and I talked about many things. We laughed together watching a DVD of the first season of the old TV show, Moonlighting.

Jack knew that Carreen was having trouble with the location of the washer and dryer. On this visit, Jack wanted to fix that. He got the materials and we relocated the washer and dryer. It was not easy for Jack, nor without pain, but he was determined.

Jack knew that he was not going to win the battle with Mersa. The medical profession had used an array of exotic antibiotics and he was now to the point where the doctors were using the last and most exotic one in their arsenal. Jack talked about coming to the Bonneville Salt Flats in August to watch me race, but I had a feeling when we hugged to say goodbye, that this would be the last time I would see him. I knew the end was close for Jack, but like all of you, I was shocked when it actually happened. I mourn for him.

To Alana: Know that the Lord will give you the strength that is needed for you to guide and raise Andrew, Brooke and Turner. Be strong in your convictions and unwavering in the pursuit of what you believe is best.

Andrew: You are now without your role model. Your father loved you as his first born and provided a stiff hand of discipline. That discipline is now missing. Listen and obey your mother. Her word is now the word of your father. Make him proud.

Brooke: You are very intelligent and intuitive. You understand more than your brothers what is right. Don’t hesitate to advise them, especially Turner, when he gets older, and pushes the envelope to get attention.

Turner: You will always be close to your mother, but don’t abuse that relationship. Learn from the stories about your father. Keep his picture with you always.

And to my beloved, Jack: Rest in peace my son. No one could have done it better.

Knight in Shining Armor

(Curator’s note: This is a story from Joanna (Babbitt) Mashler, who grew up with Kirk/Jack. Thanks for sharing, Joanna.)

I have so many memories of Kirk but this is the one that I want to share.

While I was growing up Kirk lived across the fence and across the street from me. He was 366 days older than me so they always sang to us for our birthdays together in Primary at church. The first time that Kirk rescued me was I think when I was 8-9 and he was 10-11. I used to walk home from school every day, and this particular day there were a couple of boys a year older than me that were teasing and making fun of me. I was on my way up the hill, in abject misery from these jerks, and Kirk drove up on his ATV/4 wheeler and offered me a ride home. Over the next 9 years this became a habit. Many a time I was stranded or in trouble Kirk would show up on whatever his vehicle was at the moment and take me home, telling me jokes and making sure I was all right. He was my knight in shining armor, and every time I’ve been in trouble or stranded over the years in whatever corner of the world I’m in, I’ve half expected to see him drive up in his truck Legion or on his Harley to take care of me and take me home. I don’t think he ever knew how much his acts of kindness and generosity of spirit meant in my life, and he probably wouldn’t even remember most of them because they were simply part of who he was. Even though I haven’t been in contact with him since his marriage, I’ve never forgotten him, and he has never stopped being a positive influence in my life.

What Else? Strength and Work Ethic

Curator’s Note: This is a story from a friend from church, Jody Diddy-Meneghini, about Jack’s willingness to use his great physical strength to work hard and help those around him. Despite (or maybe because of) his career in the moving business, I know lots of people, myself included, have similar memories of Jack working hard and moving things. Thanks for sharing this story, Jody.

I always admired him and his work ethic and quiet assurance he carried with him. With “Trek” coming up this summer I always have this vivid memory of the last “trek” when Jack trucked all the gear for the entire stake up to Ensign Ranch. After everything was unloaded he was just standing there in the doorway of the empty truck, arms extended as if to say, “what else? bring it on!” It blew my mind that he would be so giving and willing to do such a great service for all the youth of the stake. He will be greatly missed.

Paying the Babysitter

(Curator’s note: I received this story from a friend of the family, Katie Palmer. Thanks, Katie, for sharing this. It’s a great example of Jack’s generosity.)

I was lucky enough to have been a regular babysitter for the amazing Wright family while they were living in Auburn, Washington. I LOVED babysitting for them and would have done it for free, but they wouldn’t hear of it. I know I’m a little too old for tattling, but honestly this memory makes me laugh every time. And happens to be a great example of who Jack is.

Whenever Jack paid me, he would give me however much Alana hollered to him, but then he’d always sneak another twenty. I didn’t want ANY money, let alone more than was even remotely reasonable! But he would threaten me. Every time. He would say, “Katie, if you tell Alana, or put the money in the mailbox, I will find a new babysitter.” :) He found the one thing that would make me take the money. No way I would risk someone else babysitting their kids while I was on the block!

I love the Wright family and I have felt truly blessed to have been a part of their family. Jack was, in many ways, like a second father to me. He has always been a shining example in my life.

Remembering My Best Friend

(originally posted on my own site, crossposting here)

If you follow me on the various places I post online, you may remember I shared some sad news a couple of weeks ago. My best friend since school, Jack Wright, passed away unexpectedly. He just turned 34, and left behind his wife Alana, and their three wonderful kids. Jack was more than a friend to me – I called him my brother. I figured it was easier explain our relationship that way, than try to impress the depth of our relationship and love upon whomever I was speaking with. We lived together after high school, served LDS missions at the same time (him in Spokane, WA and me in Curitiba, Brazil). I was the best man at his wedding, and he was the best man at mine, As we started our own families, we stayed close. Even though we lived in different cities (us in Portland, and them in Seattle, L.A., and finally Texas), I still thought of him as my brother. His wife Alana became a sister to me and my wife Rachel, and we love their kids as nephews and a niece.

Jack came down with a leg infection about three years ago, while living in Seattle. It was so bad he was hospitalized, and we came to learn about a terrible antibiotic resistant strain of staphylococcus aureus called MRSA. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Most people have a benign form of staph bacteria living on their skin at any given time. It’s been humankind’s companion for ages. But in recent decades, strains have developed an almost malicious resistance to antibiotics, along with cruel new ways to cause damage. I’m in the middle of reading a terrifying but enlightening book about MRSA called Superbug, by Maryn McKenna. It’s scary stuff.

After three years, untold suffering, pain, nerve damage, expensive treatment, and hospitalizations, Jack passed away on the morning of March 1, 2011. After talking with the medical professionals involved in his care, it appears he died of fever-induced Brugada syndrome – sudden cardiac death.

It’s cliché to even say it, but the news was a terrible shock. We knew he was really sick, but no one ever expects the worst. The pain was magnified by my heart breaking for his sweet wife Alana, my sister, and the three kids. Almost immediately, I remembered a conversation during a nighttime drive around our hometown of Springville, UT when we were 17 or 18 (we had our best talks while driving). Amidst plans for building our future homes next to each other, so our kids could play together (we called it “the Castle”), we talked about what would happen if one of us died. We promised each other that if one of us died, the other would take care of his wife and children. So while I miss Jack terribly, and it hurts so much to let him go, I have tried to devote my energy and attention into taking care of Alana and the kids. Just like I promised.

Rachel and I made plans to fly to Texas for the funeral, and to stay a few extra days to help with anything we could. We wanted to be there for Alana, and the kids, and I’ll always remember those few days we spent in Texas as an emotional, solemn, sacred time. There was pain and loss, but there was also comfort and love.

Jack was a remarkable person, making strong friendships quickly, fiercely loyal, and inspiring love and dedication in those he met. I know there are many people in his life that would have done anything for him, because we knew he would have done anything for us. The week of the funeral, I heard so many stories and met so many people who Jack touched that I knew I had to find a way to document those relationships, and those memories. Not only for those of us who miss him, but for his children, so they can get to know a father they lost so early, as well as his grandchildren and the rest of his posterity.

Being the nerd that I am, of course my solution to that problem is to make a website. So that’s what I did. Remembering Kirk Jack Wright – http://kirkjackwright.com – is an online memorial to honor and remember him for as long as the Internet still has bits. I’ve already begun to collect stories and memories from people who knew him, and I’ll be the curator of those memories.

I’ve also set up PayPal donations on the site for those who would like to contribute. A memorial fund has been set up for them, and everything collected will go to cover funeral and medical expenses, as well as providing for Alana and the kids’ needs. I’ve already been touched by the great generosity that people have shown, and I really hope that there are enough people out there that can contribute, even a small amount, so that we can lighten the load on his family.

Jack, you will always be my brother, and my life has changed more than you’ll ever know for my having known you. I literally would not be the person I am today if it weren’t for you, and I’ll love you forever. I’m watching out for Alana and the kids, just like I promised, and just like I know you’d have done for me. Be good, and I’ll see you again someday.