Summer breeze, summer madness, summertime and the living is easy. As we are about to enter into the dog days of August, it is important to make sure you have your summer gear—bug spray, suntan lotion with an extra high SPF, easy slip-on sandals, dress, jean shorts, tankini or swim trunks, shawl or light jacket for a cool summer night, sunglasses and a large bag to throw it all in because you never know where you may end up. Summer flies by so quickly, so make sure you enjoy each and every minute.
It’s interesting that while the political scene is so hot, hot, hot and divided, bipartisan friendships still abound. Everyone knows Ivanka and Chelsea are friends. Spotted most recently together, just hanging out, were Tiffany Trump and Naomi Biden, granddaughter of Joe. Can’t we all just get along?
Friends from everywhere came together to show their love for Keith Wright (who needs no title or introduction). Keith’s mother Constance Emma Gray Wright died July 11 at the age of 98. The wake was held at Benta’s with standing room only, followed by the funeral at St. Phillip’s Church, 204 W. 134th St. The church has a new pastor, the Rev. Canon Terence Alexander Lee, and what better way to start than to have Ms. Connie introduce him to the overwhelming congregation that loved her dearly. I remember Ms. Connie, as I most fondly called her, as a tall, lanky lady, who always had a smile on her face. If I may, I would like to post her obituary because she was such a quiet, humble woman, little did we know she was a legend, an icon, someone we can look up to as she was a woman of courage, grace and inspiration. It’s important that we know these things.
Constance (Connie) Emma Gray Wright was a lifelong resident of Harlem. The second child of Lloyd Emerson Gray and Helen Consuelo Stannard Gray, she was born at her parents’ home at 564 Lenox Ave. Her mother was a homemaker. Her father was a mail carrier by profession, but his passion was in the arts. He was a part-time actor and musician who played with Fletcher Henderson’s band and he acted in the original cast of Porgy. The couple nurtured their children’s curiosity leading them both to STEM careers. Connie excelled in school and attended the prestigious Hunter High School, graduating in 1937 at the age of 16. Her brother Raymond attended Stuyvesant High School. He later became an engineer. Connie matriculated to Hunter College where she majored in statistics. She graduated in 1941 and went to work for John Lewis Wilson, who was the only Black architect appointed to a team of seven who were chosen to design the Harlem River Houses. At the height of World War II, Connie left the city in 1942 to work for the war effort. She joined the U.S. Signal Corps at Fort Monmouth, N.J., where her statistical skills made her a true “Hidden Figure.” Her job was to decode secrets and while she was immensely proud of her contribution to the war effort, she talked little about what she did and never revealed what she uncovered.
Connie married Bruch McMarion Wright in 1944. Bruce came home from the war that same year and resumed his education eventually landing on the study of the law. In 1946, Connie began her career as an educator. A year later, the couple found a home and a community in the newly built Riverton Development. They were among the first families to move in. They welcomed the birth of their first child, Geoffrey, in 1948. Connie went back into the classroom after Geoff’s birth and taught grades 4 and 5 at PS 46 (now PS 28). From 1957 to 1962 she was at PS 197 teaching grades 4, 5 and 6. While raising a family and teaching full-time, Connie returned to Hunter College to earn her master’s degree in elementary education. She took time off in 1955 to welcome her second son Keith Lawrence Thigpen Wright. Though her marriage to Bruce did not last, the couple co-parented their boys and remained friends until Bruce’s death in 2005.
From 1962-1966 Connie was promoted to acting assistant principal at PS 197. She took on administrative positions in the Bronx where she served as supervisor of mathematics. She returned to Harlem as an administrator and was named Assistant Principal at PS 161. She retired from that post in 1978. Throughout her life, Connie held a passion for radio engineering. She received certificates from Princeton University and Rutgers University for her study of Ultra-High-Frequency techniques and communication networks.
Family friend Ken Sargent grew up in the Riverton. He described Connie’s enduring legacy in the Harlem community. “As the Assistant Principal of PS 197, she played a hand in the intellectual development of an entire generation of Harlemites from this community. The former engineer was tough, fair and occasionally comical. Everyone within her orbit was touched with a sense of possibility.”
After her retirement, Connie continued to bring her innumerable talents to her community. She joined the board of the Harlem Philharmonic. She was on the vestry of St. Philip’s Church and also served on the board of the church’s housing corporation. She was on the community advisory board of Harlem Hospital and served on the board of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
Among the speakers at the funeral service were former Congressman Charles B. Rangel and Former Governor of the State of New York David Paterson. Both delighted the congregation with long-sought vignettes of Ms. Connie. Both ended passing on her most comforting words during some of their personal times of frustration and despair. “Don’t worry, everything will be all right.” Rest in peace.
Until next week … kisses.