Stephen Robert Wright - Steve - treasured, beloved, remarkable and unforgettable son, husband, dad, Grampy, colleague, mentor, pilot, friend, encourager. November 1, 1947 - January 4, 2021
As WWII’s Reconstruction unfolded, a US Army 1st Lieutenant (later Captain) serving in Japan and his wife welcomed their first and only child at U.S. Army 49th General Hospital in Tokyo, Japan.
Born to Allan Robert Wright and Virginia Marie Pierson Wright, Steve made newspaper headlines when he came ashore stateside in Seattle from Yokohama at two months old. Their little family settled first in Jackson, Michigan, then a few stops around his dad’s higher education with a return to Jackson from 1951 until he headed to the University of Michigan in 1965.
Early childhood written memories cast the die of his beautiful heart: from 20 months old, a love of music (records!) and trains was born, and never stopped. Rhymes and puzzles, a joy; his talent with memory and words began before he was 3. A major touchstone in his childhood in addition to his parents were his maternal grandparents - who lived with his family and doted on him endlessly - baking cookies and brownies began with his grandmother, games and learning with his grandfather, and those connections were repeated with his children and grandchildren.
Adept, active, and anxious to learn, Steve entered Cub Scouts in the mid 1950s with Troop 411 in Jackson and dedicated himself painstakingly - setting the tone for his whole life - earning his Eagle Scout award May 17, 1963 at age 15.
Radios, circuitry, building a linear accelerator/atom smasher and taking high science fair honors (the youngest for such achievement), building computers: his aptitude and motivation to challenge himself was unfailing.
Driven and deeply connected to his friendships and serving his community, his high school career included advanced coursework, Varsity swim team, numerous science competition honors, orchestra and band, serving as President of the student body and earning salutatorian honors at graduation. Friendships made at Parkside HS continued to this very day.
He entered the University of Michigan in 1965, studied chemistry and physics, pledged Sigma Phi (he annually organized and participated in the Interfraternity Council “Sing” event), and graduated in 1969 with his Bachelors of Science degree and with his acceptance to the University of Michigan Law School, from where he graduated in 1972. His years in Ann Arbor were marked by two major accomplishments: becoming a pilot and meeting the love of his life.
Steve became interested in aviation and rode his bicycle to the airport for ground school. First flight May 1967, earned his private license the same year and commercial license 1968. Also in 1968: took Jan on their second date in the skies, earned instructor license and instrument instructor certification. A huge passion, he earned his multiengine rating and hit 1000 flight hours in 1970. Airline Transport Pilot certification earned 1971, followed by the honeymoon he piloted around the US, and reached 2000 hours the same year. Jan and Steve bought their first of three aircraft in 1974 and by 2017, Steve had collectively flown 7000 hours (April) and 50 years (May) in his aviation career. And he never stopped: we flew together every month of 2020.
1968 was a banner year for his flying and cloud nine: falling in love with Jeanette Marie Kovar (Jan), in German class at U of M, where he introduced himself as “Mr. (W)right!” It was a love born of adventure. Engaged and married in 1971, their shared life began as pilot and copilot, and together, they chased the sunsets, traversed the country, and later, the world. July 24, 2021 would have marked 50 years of marriage, and they will celebrate in Heaven together this year.
Steve also proudly served his country during the Vietnam era with the Army, ultimately honorably discharged as a 1st Lieutenant in 1979, his training exercises and preparation with the Army Reserves an ongoing commitment for a decade.
The beginning of a storied legal career launched in Midland, Michigan, where Steve and Jan moved to begin his role in the patent law department of Dow Chemical Company in 1972. A big leap to Dow’s Lake Jackson, Texas office in 1980 (then Houston in 1984) charted a course as he transitioned to corporate law and was instrumental in the Midland Cogeneration Venture, and then as a visionary force for energy deregulation in Texas in the early 1990s with Destec Energy. As General Counsel for Destec, he helped take the company public in 1991, and gathered that growth experience into his dream job as General Counsel for Texas Petrochemicals Corp. in 1995 until retirement in 2005. Ever energetic and able, he consulted with Sabic Americas from 2005-2015, served on his HOA board from 2012-2020, and participated in numerous scholarship boards and causes to better the lives of others.
Beyond a wellspring of intellect, drive, and curiosity, perhaps what Steve gave of most intently and lovingly: the lives of his family. Steve and Jan welcomed Alexander Robert (Alec) in 1976 in Midland, and Catherine Karen (Cathy) followed in 1979 before they headed south and their only native Texan rounded out the crew: Bradley Edward (Brad) in Lake Jackson in 1982. In the family raising years, Steve was on hand for every science fair project, every chem and physics tutorial, for swim meets, ballgames, plays, and sharing early morning school rides, vibrant travel in the US and globally (and more).
His mentorship, encouragement, and love of his family were a life giving force to Alec, Cathy, and Brad through college, weddings, careers, and the births of his absolute joy, Jan and Steve’s grandchildren. His caring was embedded in how he helped shepherd his parents through their entire lives, after their 1991 move to join us in Houston until their passing in 2007. And in his unfailing, brave, constant support and effortless knowledge gaining in Jan’s entire medical saga, from liver transplant (2001) to myelofibrosis diagnosis (2008) until her death in 2015. Steve was instrumental in helping decide and achieve every bucket list item Jan desired for them: visiting all seven continents, all 50 states, all friends on their Christmas card list. He advocated for her always, a love without end.
In the wake of Jan’s death, his purpose was renewed fully in his children and grandchildren, and flying cancer patients to and from Houston in his plane as a volunteer Angel Flight mission pilot. He spent most of every week at the homes of his children; we shared travel, cookie baking, trains, pool parties, reading, snuggles, conversations and so much laughter and advice. Watching him with his grandchildren was to witness “love as a verb.” Steve lived his entire life striving, advancing, and uplifting others: he believed helping actualize others was his life’s work.
This tragic loss of an incredible man was unforeseen and sudden, and will create a canyon unlike any other. In time, we will fill it with every memory and story, every smile and pun, every hope for the future.
Steve is survived by his children: Alec Wright and wife Han, Cathy Wright Flores and husband Marc, Brad Wright and wife Kristyna, and the grandchildren he cherished: Brayden, Makayla, Annabelle, Amelia, Luka, Isabelle, and Madeleine and by countless extended family members, beloved friends, colleagues, and lives he helped.
The family will hold a private graveside service Wednesday, January 13, 2021, with a forthcoming celebration of life open to everyone who loved Steve. Tributes may be made in his name to Angel Flight at http://AngelFlightSC.org or to the National Parks Service.
Until we meet again, wishing you CAVU and giving unending thanks for the light you shined on this world.