In Loving Memory
Ernest “Ernie” Leroy Wright, 72, of Glen Ellyn, IL was called home to the Lord Thursday, December 10, 2020. He was born on January 13, 1948 in Chicago, IL, the middle of three children, son of Earnest Wright and Cecelia (Poth) Wright.
Ernie grew up on the south side of Chicago at 71st and Rockwell in the “little mansion” behind his grandparents’ three-flat where some of his Poth cousins lived, making his large family especially close growing up and continuing through the years. Ernie was fondly known as “Jug” to his family. Ernie and his family later moved to Oakbrook Terrace, IL where he played baseball and backyard badminton with his siblings and neighborhood friends. He was a star wrestler and student for Willowbrook High School. Ernie was a caddie at Butterfield Country Club which spawned his love and respect for the game of golf. Through caddying Ernie earned an Evans Scholarship to attend the University of Illinois where Ernie earned a BS in Electrical Engineering and an MS in Nuclear Engineering and continued further advanced studies under an Atomic Energy Commission Fellowship. Ernie wrestled for the University of Illinois and was honored for excellence in athletics and academics.
After graduating college, Ernie worked on the design of nuclear, fossil fuel, and solar power plants throughout the country and world. For his work, he lived in Virginia, Tennessee, Michigan, Washington, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Early in his travels, he met his lifelong friend Carmine Caroll. Ernie was a longtime employee of Sargent & Lundy as well as a business partner of his good friend Saleem Kahn. Ernie enjoyed his career, particularly mentoring and teaching younger engineers. He had a true love for learning many subjects. He is responsible for several U.S. patents and was called as an expert to testify in front of the U.S. Senate.
His family, especially his children and grandchildren meant the world to him. Ernie is survived by his daughter Emily (Dennis) Dougherty and Rebecca Wright; sister Virginia (Jack) Miller; brother Will Wright; grandchildren, Nolan, Declan, and Rory Dougherty; and former spouse, and always part of his life, Janis Wright. He also has numerous extended family - Poth, Goodwin, and Wright - that he was close to and enjoyed visiting in California, Minnesota, and all over the country. He had many dear friends including the Burkhardt Family and Mary Jane Chapman.
Ernie truly lived a life of charitable service. He was a lifelong member of the United Church of Christ in Villa Park, Champaign, and of course the First Congregational Church of Glen Ellyn. Ernie faithfully loved the life and work of the church. He was an organizer of the CROP Hunger Walk and a theater Sunday School teacher. Ernie enjoyed many years of church family and men’s retreats in Tower Hill, MI. Ernie did much of his work for the church quietly by helping trim trees at homes of the elderly or making sure his friends who could not drive made it to church on Sunday. Ernie supported the Evan Scholars by volunteering at the Western Open and continued his family’s passion for gardening by volunteering for the local forest preserve.
Ernie had many hobbies including fishing and gardening that he learned from his father and passed to his grandsons. He enjoyed camping, visiting the National Parks, walking at the Morton Arboretum, marching in the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade, playing tennis and skiing and ice skating with his daughters. He appreciated art, poetry, architecture, theatre, and rock and roll. He enjoyed visiting the museums, particularly the Adler Planetarium, Field Museum, and Art Institute of Chicago. He worked across the street from the Art Institute for many years and ate lunch there daily.
Ernie loved his family and friends and cherished his time with them in the most meaningful way. He was not one to talk about the weather, but rather to have meaningful conversations to teach or learn from all those he talked to. He lived each moment of his life reflecting and stopping to smell the roses that he loved to garden. He always cared more about people and his time with them than any possessions. He was very loving and always made it known how much he cared for his family and friends. He was proud of his family. His daughters know any success they have in life is attributed to all he did to provide them opportunities, limitless choices, and a sterling example of success.
He worked very hard to provide for his family but took a step back when his daughters were in high school to make time for the service, hobbies, and people he loved. When his grandsons were born, he shifted to be a full-time grandfather caring for them as babies and later teaching them about the outdoors, how to properly sword fight or wrestle and everything little boys should know. He was there at swim lessons, baseball games, and to give the best underdogs on the swing-set. He never missed the chance to give a gag gift at a birthday celebration for his grandsons and always led the happy birthday song in both English and Dutch. He was there every day for his grandsons and there is not a day that goes by that the things they do not emulate their grandfather.
He was such a remarkable dad, grandfather, brother, and friend – he will be deeply missed by everyone who knew him.
To Our Family and Friends
We are overwhelmed and humbled by your outpouring of support. We know Ernie was genuinely a great man and we know each and every one of you meant so much to him. We are sincerely blessed to have you in his and our lives.
We all know he was called too soon. Ernie was scheduled for a gallbladder surgery and bile duct removal. During surgery he was definitely diagnosed with bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma) which is a rare but aggressive cancer. He underwent a very complex surgery to have the cancer removed and was on track to beat the odds. While recovering in the hospital, his recovery took a turn and despite a team of doctors doing everything they could, his heart stopped with his family by his side. We miss him every moment since then.
We would very much like to hug each of you and thank you for everything you did for him in his life and honor him on a grand scale. We understand that is neither possible or responsible at this time. Ernie was very cautious surrounding COVID and the last thing he would want is to put any of you in harm's way.
Golf Outing-Summer 2021
In the summer of 2021, we will hold a golf outing and banquet for golfers and non-golfers in Ernie’s honor at the Village Links of Glen Ellyn. The Village links was Ernie’s favorite place to teach his children and grandchildren to golf. The outing will benefit the Evans Scholars Foundation which gave Ernie a college scholarship. Please e-mail Emily.E.Dougherty@gmail.com if you are interested in attending.
We will take safety seriously. Please wear a mask and only 10 people will be allowed inside the building at a time due to COVID restrictions. As an alternative to in-person attendance, upload, download, or view pictures at the following site or leave a note on the Leonard Home tribute wall.
The night of the visitation December 21, 2020, is the night of the Christmas Star which hasn’t been seen in 800 years. Every Christmas season Ernie and his dear friend Carmine Caroll would take their families to see the Star of Bethlehem show at the Adler Planetarium. Take a moment to view the star and pray for all those you love including Ernie.
Christmas Star Article:
A Service of Worship Celebrating Ernie’s life will be held the morning of December 22, 2020, at First Congregational Church of Glen Ellyn followed by burial at Chapel Hill Gardens South in Oak Lawn, IL. Due to COVID restrictions, the service and burial will be private. The service will be recorded and posted for viewing on the Leonard Memorial Funeral Home site.
Continue His Life of Giving
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Ernest Wright’s name to the organizations he held most dear to his heart:
First Congregational Church of Glen Ellyn was his passion. Donations will be distributed between the church and Sunday school he loved as well as the charitable works of the church. Select “other” in the online drop down and enter “In Memory of Ernie Wright.”
Donations can be made to the Evans Scholar Foundation that provided him a college scholarship, a love of golf, and a fraternity in college. Select “In Honor of” and enter Ernest Wright
Donations are greatly appreciated to the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation. Help us improve available treatment options for this rare but aggressive cancer. The Foundation supports promising projects that are less likely to get traditional funding. Projects supported in 2019 include research at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston Children's Hospital, the Mayo Clinic, the Broad Institute of MIT, and Harvard.
Please find the link to Ernie's Memorial page below: