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Monday December 10, 2012

Thomas Edmund Wright

Husband, father, scientist, entrepreneur, gentleman. Born Feb. 9, 1921, in Waterdown, Ont., died Aug. 22, 2012, in Kingston of complications from Alzheimer's disease, aged 91.

Ed Wright always described himself as a farm boy. Everyone else described him as a kind and gentle man. The first born to Ada and George Wright, Ed was soon joined by John and Mary, with whom he was close all his life.

Life was never easy. George died of a leaky heart valve, leaving 14-year-old Ed as the man of the house amid the Depression. A brilliant youth, Ed graduated top of his class and entered McMaster University at 16. He wanted to be a doctor or a veterinarian, but was judged to be too young, so he studied science.

When war came, Ed wanted to be a pilot but the military wanted him at home doing munitions development. Given the fate of pilots, this was good news for his future family. He met the love of his life, Margaret Coster, and they married in December, 1945. Sons Tom and Jim were born in 1947 and 1949, followed by a sister, Barbara Jean, who died at birth.

Ed joined ALCAN Aluminum Research where he became one of the world's most prominent experts on how aluminum reacts to the environment. Flown all over the world at the drop of a hat, he warned the government of Canada not to use aluminum in the Cape Breton heavy water plant (they didn't listen and had to replace it all). He taught C&C Yachts how to paint aluminum, and helped Ford use aluminum in its cars. Eventually he was flown to Washington to help load an artificial intelligence system on metals.

Ed always said that "brains are cheap," so he began looking for investment opportunities to support his retirement. He began investing in land and mortgages. At one point, two mortgagees behind in their payments began a feud over the boundary line. Ed's sons told him the land value had escalated and he should just evict them. Instead, Ed took a surveyor out to the properties and negotiated a new, slanted boundary line that resolved the dispute.

Later, he bought apartment buildings. He was handyman, cleaner and painter as well as landlord. One year, his tenants threw him a party and gave a plaque to "Ed Wright, World's Best Landlord."

Ed and Marg loved playing golf and bridge and travelling. They saw many parts of the world together, from the Panama Canal and the Caribbean to Southeast Asia. But they especially loved their trips to England and mainland Europe with friends. Their last cruise together was a Chef's Cruise in 2006. Marg was a great hostess, cook and teacher. She passed away in 2008.

Both Ed and Marg golfed across Canada and in the southern United States with their sons, continuing to play until very late in life. They enjoyed the company of friends and family to the end.

Jim Wright is Ed's son.

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