Donald A Wright

June 8, 1941January 7, 2013
Play Tribute Movie

Donald Anthony Wright of Sudbury, Massachusetts unexpectedly departed this life at his home on Monday, January 7, 2013. Don was husband of Paula (Lawson), father of Donny, father-in-law to Marta and grandfather to Junior, Bryan and Kethleen to whom he was affectionately known as “Big Papi”. He is survived by sisters and brothers Kay, Geraldine, Judy, Ronald and Michael and he was predeceased by Kevin.

The union of his father Donald Wright, an immigrant from Nova Scotia, Canada, and his mother, Mary Britto, from the Cape Verde Islands led to a family of seven children. Don was born in 1941 in West Medford, Massachusetts. Affectionately called ‘Butchie’ by friends from the neighborhood, Don was an altar boy at St. Francis de Sales Church near the Cathedral Housing Development where he grew up. He caught the entrepreneurial bug early, running his own shoe shine stand by the age of 10. After graduating from Jamaica Plain High School, he was accepted by Boston University and the University of Massachusetts, however economic necessity directed himt to enroll at what was then Delaware State College (DSC). He first arrived at the DSC campus with a shopping bag of clothing in one arm and a basketball in his other. Majoring in sociology at DSC, he was an honor student, and although his basketball aspirations did not materialize, he found his athletic calling as a lifeguard and swim instructor in the DSC Memorial Hall swimming pool.

Don earned a B.A. Degree in Sociology from DSC in 1965. He then went on to receive a M.S. degree in Political Science from Northeastern University. During a brief employment stint at a YMCA in Baltimore he met and in 1969 married his wife, Paula Lawson of Baltimore. In 1976 they were blessed with their son Donny.

Don landed a job at the Massachusetts Office of Economic Development and later had a 20-year career as State Director of ACTION (an umbrella federal agency that encompassed VISTA and the Peace Corps).

Don told his wife Paula that he always wanted to own his own business, and work with food while helping young people. Those aspirations led him to take advantage of an introduction by a friend to a McDonalds franchise opportunity.

Entering his 29th year as a McDonald’s franchisee, Don estimated that thousands of people have worked for him and he has sent at least 1,000 to one of the institutions of higher education in the state or to McDonald’s Hamburger University in Illinois. Don’s commitment to the support and growth of his people was his most notable achievement and the many young people who he helped work to meet their goals meant the world to him.

In addition to owning five individual McDonald’s franchises in the Boston suburbs, Don and Paula also own venues at four Massachusetts Turnpike Travel Plazas that are each anchored by a McDonald’s restaurant. Ever bustling with travelers, the plazas have become showcases of which Don was extremely proud. The Wrights currently provide jobs for more than 700 people within their business network. It has truly been a family enterprise. The Wrights’ son, Donny, grew up not just watching the development of his parents’ success story, but also learning the business beginning with working behind the counter and in the kitchen. Now Donny is the owner/operator of four McDonald’s franchises in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Don believed in ‘paying it forward’ and demonstrated gratitude for his professional success by sharing his ‘time and treasure’. The Wrights’ community service includes their financial assistance in the construction of a shelter for battered women in the Cape Verde Islands, support for a Boys and Girls Club in Maynard, Massachusetts, and contributions to many other local projects supporting youth and people in need. Don always felt that giving back should begin with one’s college or university, because “college developed you.” A Delaware State University donor for years, he backed that talk up by making significant gifts to the DSU Athletics Program for basketball and football scholarships.

Among his many awards and honors, Don received the Mass Minority Contractors “Minority Retailer of the Year Award” and The American Hero Award for commitment to the children of the City of Boston. While his restaurants and his team of employees received many awards over the years, he was especially proud of receiving the ‘The Golden Arch Award’ for Outstanding Professional Achievement, bestowed to the top 1% of McDonald owner-operators world-wide.

Don was a regular on the greens as a member of Nashawtuc Country Club in Concord until he discovered fishing! Two years ago, he purchased his first boat Miss Kethleen, and shared many ‘bucket list’ adventures from Martha’s Vineyard to the Caribbean with his friends and son Donny as First Mate. Don’s hobbies also included sports, cooking and landscaping for which he received 17 outstanding landscaping awards for his restaurant landscaping.

As far as retirement from his commercial ventures goes, Don always said he doesn’t think about it. “When God is ready to call me home, then it is time to retire,” he said.

We little knew that morning God was to call your name. In life we loved you dearly, in death we do the same. It broke our hearts to lose you, You did not go alone. For part of us went with you The day God called you home. You left us beautiful memories, Your love is still our guide, And though we cannot see you, You are always at our side. Our family chain is broken, and nothing seems the same, But as God calls us one by one, The chain will link again. Helen Steiner Rice

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations forthe Donald Wright Memorial Scholarship Fund can be made to: Delware State University Foundation,1200 North DuPont Highway,Dover, Delaware.19901. Online memorial donations will be accepted at


  • visitaion Sunday, January 13, 2013
  • Funeral Mass Monday, January 14, 2013

Donald A Wright

have a memory or condolence to add?


receive updates when new memories are posted

Bill Fenlason

December 4, 2013

Paula, I only recently learned of Don's passing. I am truly sorry for your loss.

Ron Strauss

May 15, 2013

I am but a patron of the McDonald's Restaurant in Walpole, often stopping by on my way home to RI from Boston. In fact I am sitting here now and am still impressed by the appearance, cleanliness and attentiveness of the staff (not to mention the landscaping). It's a fitting tribute and legacy to your late owner. My sincere condolences to Mr. Wright's family and all who were touched by his many good deeds and business acumen which went hand in hand.

Mike Jones

May 14, 2013

Paula, I am so sorry for your lost. I have had Don on my mind for many weeks and last night I started looking for him and found that he had passed. He was one of my best friends, and I will miss him so much.

Ed & Mary Sabath

March 8, 2013

Dear Paula & Don Jr.& Family:
We are so sorry to hear of Don's passing. Please accept our deepest & belated sympathy to all of you.
We will always remember how much fun he was at the Mc'Donalds meetings
and the many conventions we attended together.He will be truly missed by his family and friends. Please know that you are in our thoughts and prayers.
God bless you and your family

All our love & prayers
Ed and Mary Sabath
Andrea & David Sabath
Westlake, Ohio 44145

February 19, 2013

I was hoping I might see Don this morning standing in the middle of the food court at his establishment on the Mass Pike. Instead I was stunned and saddened to read of his passing in a tribute posted on the wall. A man with such energy and so full of life; He was always ready with a smile and a story. Such a tremendous loss for his family and anyone that knew him. A great family man, a great business man, and just a very generous human being. My sympathy to his loved one.
Tom Keating

roy pologe

February 18, 2013

Dear Paula and Donald Jr.

Belated condolences. Was out of down at time of Don's passing. Only now aware of sad happening. Hard to believe. Don was so full of life and vitality. His and your good works and sincere endeavor will be long remembered. May I recall one such gesture of personal and communal importance, of which even close friends and family might not be aware.

You may not be familiar with the scenario concerning the Menorah lit up each year concurrent with your Christmas display. Don sought permission from McDonalds' and MA highway authority to do so. His and my efforts were admistratively frustrated, but Don didn't accept no for an answer and decided to have it set-up anyway. It was delivered from NJ by four Orhtodox Jews who installed it. Don invited them in for food and drinks, which they graciously refused because of religious observance.

It may be considered insignificant, but many did notice it and were profoundly appreciative of Don's gesture. There is no other such Menorah along the Mass Pike.

Though Don and I had arranged to split the bill for the Menorah, Don refused to accept my check. He asked me to donate it in his name to a charity of my choice. When told of my donation to a fund supporting an Ethiopian family in Israel with seven young children, their father disabled and a son severely wounded while serving in an elite combat brigade, Don sent me another check to send the family.

Those and other memories of Don will be with me always. Please pass on my and my wife Ronnie's condolences to Donny and your family.

Not least to say about Don was the great respect he earned from his associates. Should there be a memorial occasion honoring Don, please invite us to attend.


Roy and Ronnie Pologe

Howard and Barbara Washington

February 12, 2013

Dear Paula,
We were so sorry to hear of Don's passing from Barry and Pam Lathan. Please accept our sincerest condolences. We'll continue to hold fast to our time together, several years ago, golfing in CA.

Carol Gonsalves-Fielder

January 29, 2013

To the Wright family:
I am so sorry to hear of the passing of Butch. I grew up in Boston and will always remember a road trip we all took to Delaware State for Homecoming when Butch was a student there.
My prayers are with the entire family.

Marsha Colbert

January 25, 2013

Paula,Donnie and Family
There are no words however heartfelt that can ease your sorrow, but may it strenthen you to realize that those who care are near in heart.
I will always cherish the memories of Don being my supervisor at ACTION, he was like a big brother I never had, oh how I looked up to him as being my mentor. He believed in me, giving me leadership assignments and promoted me many times for my hard work, what a "fantastic supervisor".
Don's absence will be felt by many for many years to come.
With deepest sympathy and love

January 22, 2013

To the Wright Family,

I am so sorry to hear of the passing of Don. He was a very nice man who always made me smile when speaking with him. I am very sorry for your loss.

Amy Walsh, Honey Dew Associates