Dorothy Williams Wright of Ithaca, NY died peacefully on Tuesday, December 31, 2019. Dorothy Williams Wright, the youngest daughter of the late James Williams and Annie Belle Coppedge was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina in 1932. She later moved to Richmond, Virginia, where she was an avid reader and enthusiastic cheerleader at Booker T. Washington High School. There she won a regional singing competition and graduated with honors. Arriving in Manhattan at age 18, Dorothy attended secretarial correspondence school by day and rubbed elbows with famous personalities, civil rights leaders, and politicians at various evening meetings where “party honchos” as she called them, were considering her candidacy for elected office. She ended up declining, saying her “early glimpse behind-the-scenes” with some of NYC’s notable politicians, left her wary.
She worked in the secretarial pool and then lead floor sales for Gimbels Department Store (which later became Macy’s). At her final place of employment at the Department of Social Services in New York City, she met Glenn Walter Wright, a graduate of Tuskegee University, a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., and a renowned athlete (who was born in Weedsport, NY). Glenn was an accountant and Supervisor of Case Management, the division Dorothy also worked in as a clerk. After a short courtship, the two wed, and she retired in her late thirties, bound for a life in upstate NY.
The couple and their daughter Michelle lived in the famed Catskill Mountains region (in Narrowsburg, NY) during the “Catskills heyday.” The family resided in the log cabin Dorothy’s husband built, in the famous Luxton Lake Estates neighborhood, which was an intentional community of African American and Caribbean American neighborhood comprised of about 75 or more New York City artists, entertainers, doctors, lawyers, government employees, and famous athletes, Broadway actors, and musicians. One infamous resident of the neighborhood was the family’s beloved beagle “Buttons” who ate numerous meals at a variety of other homes, but who always returned to her own home feigning hunger.
This is where Dorothy flourished as a homemaker, a stalwart money manager, a precise canner of preserves and sauces, a friendly neighbor, and devoted gardener to her precious rose, lilac, lily, and hydrangea gardens. An occasional wood splitter, a brilliant and competitive crossword puzzle master, a witty human and a chagrined (one-time) hunter, she spent her lifetime without fail “dressed to the nines,” boasting an extensive array of vintage clothes, exquisite jewelry, hats, brocades, and shoes. She admitted later to retiring “too young” and was often bored by her life in the country.
To ease her malaise, Dorothy would take her young daughter on a wide variety of country drives, with her child yelping with glee as Dorothy would drive fast down new roads and wind around curves, all the while, assuring her daughter that “adventures are made up of mysteries…and all roads, even those we haven’t traveled before, eventually lead us home.”
At the log cabin in the woods, Dorothy wrote a witty advice column and several community-based stories in Narrowsburg’s long-running newspaper, The River Reporter, and volunteered enthusiastically for the local Democratic Party. She was also a charismatic figure when it came to circulating petitions. Her relentless energy and convincing arguments led to collecting hundreds of signatures that later turned back a campground proposal that would have comprised a neighborhood’s quality of life and another, that resulted in the removal of an ineffective and discriminatory school teacher.
After the tragic demise of her community’s beloved lake, coupled with the death of her husband Glenn from cancer 30 years ago, Dorothy relocated to Cochecton and later to Monticello, NY, where she lived until 2014. In that year, with increasingly failing health, she relocated to the Ithaca area to be near her daughter’s family.
Dorothy was predeceased by her husband Glenn Walter Wright (Narrowsburg, NY), and four of her five sisters Margaret Hayward (Newark, NJ); Irene Harris (New York City); Mary Costine Rowsom (Norfolk, VA); and Edessie Williams (New York City). She is survived by her daughter, Michelle Courtney Berry (Robert Lofthouse) and her cherished granddaughter Nina Berry-Lofthouse (Ithaca, NY), a beloved sister, Mrs. Berta Perry (Newark, NJ), and a host of nieces, nephews, and over one hundred cousins in the Metro NYC area and around the United States. She is also survived by several devoted friends, many that she’s known and loved dearly for decades or since childhood.
Dorothy was grateful to have numerous vibrant friendships with residents of Juniper Manor (Trumansburg, NY), and to have received kind attention and wonderful care from staff at both Oak Hill Manor and Cayuga Ridge Extended Care, where many of her care providers became like family to her. Interment (natural burial) will be held privately at Grove Cemetery, in accordance with her wishes.
The family will be present to receive friends from 11:00am to 1:00pm on Saturday, January 11, 2019 at the Ness-Sibley Funeral Home, 23 South Street, Trumansburg, NY. At 12:15pm, there will be a time to share stories and memories of Dorothy.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Foodnet Meals on Wheels, Guthrie (Nephrology), and Hospicare and Palliative Care Services of Tompkins County.