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Published: Saturday, 5/25/2013 - Updated: 2 years ago

Marvin Jerry Wright, 1937-2013; Grand Rapids mayor in ’90s coached kids

Wright Wright

Marvin Jerry Wright, who is probably better known in Grand Rapids, Ohio, for his ebullient and outgoing personality than his one-term stint as mayor almost two decades ago, died Thursday in the Cleveland Clinic.

He was 76.

His wife, June Wright, said he died of complications from berylliosis, a disabling and sometimes fatal lung disease believed to be caused by exposure to beryllium dust. He also had a heart attack in April, she said.

Born Jan. 17, 1937, Mr. Wright — known simply as Jerry — was raised along the Maumee River in Grand Rapids.

One of his best friends, Tom Gordon, recalled him as a strapping and athletic, fun-loving guy who grew up in the house across from his family’s residence. The two were four months apart in age. Mr. Wright was best man at Mr. Gordon’s wedding.

“We grew up along this river. This river was our playground,” Mr. Gordon said.

Mr. Wright was a multisport athlete in high school who played basketball for Defiance College and on several organized recreational teams after that.

He coached youth football and soccer and summer baseball.

He followed the Ohio State Buckeyes and Cleveland Indians.

And he collected coins and guns, Mr. Gordon said.

A number of improvements undertaken by their church, Calvary United Methodist Church, “wouldn’t have happened without Jerry,” according to Mr. Gordon, the church treasurer.

He said his friend’s charm convinced members to help fund projects, such as a new parking lot and a handicapped ramp.

“He was always there when I needed him,” Mr. Gordon said. “He was what a friend was about.”

Mr. Wright served one term as Grand Rapids mayor in the mid 1990s, but was involved in the community in many other ways.

He was once a city councilman, a scoutmaster, president of the Grand Rapids Athletic Boosters, a volunteer fireman, a township trustee, a member of the local historical society, chairman of the public affairs board, and president of the pool board.

Mr. Wright was employed at Brush Wellman Inc.; Airport Lumber; Wick’s Lumber; Katy Steel and Aluminum, and Tristate Aluminum, from which he retired in 2000.

His berylliosis diagnosis that year caused him to become less active, his wife said.

“He never met anyone he couldn’t talk to,” Mrs. Wright said.

“He enjoyed being with people. He helped solve problems. That was part of his nature.”

The couple was married 58 years and knew each other since grade school. When he asked her out for their first date as a junior or senior in high school, she turned him down.

Mrs. Wright said she reconsidered, though, upon the recommendation of her father, who liked Jerry. Then, before she knew it, they were getting married and raising a family.

Surviving are his wife, June; sons, Marvin Jr. and Mark; daughter, Kimberly Freeworth; six grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.

Services are 11 a.m. Tuesday in Wright-Habegger Funeral Home, Grand Rapids, where visitation is 2 to 8 p.m. Monday, with a Masonic service at 7:30 p.m.

The family suggests tributes to Calvary United Methodist Church, Grand Rapids Little League, Grand Rapids Pool, or Boy Scouts Troop 325.

Contact Tom Henry at: thenry@theblade.com or 419-724-6079.

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