W. Redwood Wright of Woods Hole, who led a varied life as a newspaperman, oceanographer and citizen activist, died May 8. 2017 peacefully at his home. He was married for nearly 61 years to Mary C. Wright who died in February, 2017.
Mr. Wright was born Sept. 17, 1927, in Philadelphia PA, to Catharine Morris and Sydney L. Wright. He had two brothers and a sister. The family lived on a farm in Glenside, just outside Philadelphia. During World War II they were host to four English children, distant cousins.
Mr. Wright graduated from Germantown Friends School in spring of 1945 and started that summer at Princeton University. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in March 1946 and served as a radio operator in South Korea, was discharged in summer 1947 and returned to Princeton that fall. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa in history in 1950.
For two years he taught at St. George’s School in Newport RI, but left in 1952 to become a reporter at the Auburn (NY Citizen-Advertiser, a small daily newspaper. For two years he wrote about all aspects of life in a small city and loved it.
In 1954, he was hired by the Providence Journal, working first in the paper’s state staff offices in Pawtucket, Newport and Wickford. Two years later he joined the city staff in Providence as a general reporter, working nights for the morning newspaper. He became active in the Providence Newspaper Guild and was president when the Guild won a National Labor Relations Board election to represent the editorial staff.
In 1956 he and Mary Coffey were married in Jamestown RI where his parents and her father had retired. They lived for a while in Providence but moved back to Wickford after the birth of two daughters, Elinor Scollay Wright and Catharine Morris Wright.
In 1960 Mr. Wright was hired as public information officer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and the family moved to Woods Hole, where a son, William Redwood Wright Jr., was born in 1961.
After a couple of research cruises, Mr. Wright decided to change fields, resigned his job and enrolled in a master’s degree program at the Graduate School of Oceanography at University of Rhode island (URI). After a year of coursework he returned to WHOI as an assistant to L. Valentine Worthington in the Department of Physical Oceanography, studying deep ocean circulation. In 1965 he received a master’s degree from URI and went on to earn a PhD in 1970 with a thesis on sources of energy for the deep sea circulation.
Completely committed to the communities of Woods Hole and Falmouth, he and Mary bought Rose Cottage in Woods Hole and their kids attended the Woods Hole School.
He joined the scientific staff at WHOI; in 1976 he moved to the Northeast Fisheries Center in Woods Hole, leading a group that studied the circulation on the continental shelf. Mr. Wright’s research was mostly in the North Atlantic but also took him north to Greenland waters, south to Brazil and west to Japan.
In 1982 he resigned from the Fisheries and worked for a few years at Associated Scientists at Woods Hole, which he helped found, doing consulting work on coastal oceanography.
He was the author of about twenty scientific papers, two oceanographic atlases (with Mr. Worthington) and chapters in several books.
Mr. Wright was involved for nearly 20 years with the Bermuda Biological Station for Research, including 9 years as president of the board, when that laboratory was making the transition to a year-round operation with its own research staff. He also served as trustee of the Bigelow Laboratory in Maine and the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies.
A lifelong Democrat, Mr. Wright was elected chairman of the Falmouth Democratic Town Committee in 1984 and stayed through the presidential campaign of Michael Dukakis in 1988. He was also active in town government, spending nearly 30 years as a town meeting member and five years as chairman of the Capital Program Committee which prioritized capital expenditures to fit the funds available.
He was board chair for the American Field Service (AFS) and Falmouth Volunteers in Public Schools (VIPS) and was an early director of Neighborhood Falmouth. For many years he sang with the Falmouth Interfaith Choir (now Falmouth Chorale) and served briefly as president. He was proud to become the first man to join the Falmouth League of Women Voters; his wife signed him up while he was at sea.
In 1987 he was one of the founders of Spritsail, the journal of the Woods Hole Historical Museum, and chaired the editorial board for 10 years, contributing several articles along the way.
In 1989 Mr. and Mrs. Wright spent 17 winters on a farm on Shaw island in Washington state, volunteered at the library there and sang in the choir.
Mr. Wright enjoyed outdoor activities with his family especially those associated with the water. He was an accomplished sailor, having crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a 40-foot ketch and competed in four races from Newport to Bermuda and one from Newport to Annapolis. For 30 years he and his family cruised local waters and the New England coast in their 31-foot classic wooden cutter Mocking Bird. He was a member of the Ocean Cruising Club, the Catboat Association and the Woods Hole and Quissett yacht clubs.
In addition to his children, he is survived by five grandchildren, two brothers and a sister.
Memorial service to be announced at a later date.