Jerry Wright had a medical question concerning his granddaughter and called his brother John, whose wife is a registered nurse.
It was a little before 2 p.m. on Wednesday. John Wright told his brother he was on the bus owned by his church, Front Street Baptist, and he and his wife, Beverly, were on their way home with 16 other senior church members from a three-day religious jubilee in Gatlinburg, Tenn.
“He said he was helping with the driving but wasn’t driving at the time,” Jerry Wright said. “They’d missed a turn and were turning around.”
Hours later, Jerry got a call. There had been a terrible accident. John was killed. Beverly was in intensive care in a Knoxville hospital.
“That church was a big part of his life,” Jerry said. “It’s something that you never expect.”
Their mother, Pauline Wright, died at 91 just last month.
John and Jerry Wright and their sister grew up in Rockingham in Richmond County. There, John was a “darn good” shortstop on the high school team. He would remain competitive in sports the rest of his life, whether it was pitching horseshoes, league bowling (he maintained a 175 average) or playing softball, his brother said.
After moving to Statesville, John Wright took classes at Mitchell Community College and joined the Army Reserves, where he served for 30 years. He left as a sergeant first class, his brother said.
John and Beverly lived in Mocksville in Davie County, and each week they drove the 24 miles on Interstate 40 to Statesville to attend church services at Front Street Baptist. John had been a member for 50 years. He also spent time reading to students at N.B. Mills Elementary in Statesville, the school the church had adopted.
After John Wright retired from a lab testing job at a fiberglass plant, John gave much of his energy to the church, helping Front Street Baptist deacon Randy Morrison drive the church bus on outings. Morrison was driving Wednesday when the left front tire failed on I-40 and the bus careened across the median, clipping an SUV and colliding with a tractor-trailer.
Jerry Wright said he thought John and Beverly were sitting behind Morrison. “The front of that bus was tore up pretty bad,” he said. “I still think it’s a dream – I know we’ll have to wake up and realize it’s true.”
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