Shelly Wright, the daughter of Grant and Joan Wright, owners and operators of the Thompson Citizen and Nickel Belt News prior to selling them to Glacier Media Inc. in January 2007, died in June 19 in Winnipeg at the age of 49, succumbing to infection after a long battle with numerous health problems.
Born in Thompson on Sept. 27, 1962, Shelly Wright was involved with the family business early in life before leaving the city to attend Grade 11 and 12 at Shattuck St. Mary's boarding school in Fairbault, Minnesota and then the University of Manitoba, where she earned a bachelor's degree in political science, before coming back to Thompson and joining the family business, where she served as a reporter as well as a typist, proofreader and editor. She continued to write for the paper even after she relocated to Winnipeg in her early 30s in order to be closer to doctors and medical facilities. Shelly Wright had five heart surgeries, underwent a year of kidney dialysis and also received a kidney transplant from her sister Carolyn over the last half of her life.
Diana Hiscock, the office manager of the Thompson Citizen and Nickel Belt News for 30 years under the Wright family's ownership, knew Shelly Wright as a young girl and an adult.
"As a very young girl she used to come and stuff papers especially for our Nickel Belt News, which at that time was published on Wednesdays," said Hiscock. "Her dad kept her busy doing what she could do around the newspaper as a young child in the summers."
After university, her involvement moved to the news side.
"When she came back to Thompson, editorials were definitely her forte," Hiscock says. "Her best subjects were City of Thompson, School District of Mystery Lake. She certainly held them accountable to what she felt was best for Thompson. No subject was not touched. If she felt that there was a reason to write an editorial and she wanted it out there, she put it out."
"Some of them were controversial which is always a good thing to have in an editorial," said Blake Ellis, who served as reporter and editor with the Thompson Citizen and Nickel Belt News for nine years, the first five of those actively working with Shelly Wright. "It makes people think and gets the conversation going."
Conversations often got going when Shelly Wright was at the newspaper, Ellis recalls.
"She liked to debate those local issues," said Ellis, who visited with her mother on a recent trip to Winnipeg. "That led to a lively newsroom. We'd often debate issues here at the paper."
Shelly Wright could also be counted on to write up a storm when the need arose.
"Many of our slow news days, the copy that was required to fill the newspaper was supplied by Shelly even after her move to Winnipeg for health reasons," Hiscock said.
Ellis also remembers a person with strong opinions who wasn't afraid to share them, be it in writing or in person.
"You always knew where you stood with Shelly," says Ellis. "You never wondered what Shelly was thinking because she would tell you and same with her mother Joan. I think Shelly gets a lot from her mother in terms of being opinionated."
Health care was an issue that was near and dear to Shelly Wright, Ellis says, perhaps because of her own experiences.
The news of her death is especially poignant to those who knew her because she was a member of one of the pioneer families of Thompson, whose members have become fewer as the city has passed the 50-year mark.
"They were in on the ground floor," Ellis says of the Wright family. "It's becoming the end of an era."
Having known Shelly Wright personally, Ellis says her death has had a profound effect on him.
"Some of the best memories I have are working for the Wright family at the Thompson Citizen," he says. "When I heard that Shelly had passed away, all those years that I spent there, all those memories came flooding back so it's a time for me to reflect."
"She really was one of a kind, very opinionated, but backed up what she had to say," Hiscock says. "She certainly made her presence felt in Thompson, whether it made people happy or unhappyy. She was a great writer and a great person."
Shelly Wright, who also self-published two novels under the name Drake Worthington, stayed in Thompson following the sale of the newspapers in 2007, working with her partner Mike to rebuild the Wright family cabin. She is survived by him, as well as by her mother Joan, her sister Carolyn and her nieces Rebecca, Mary and Kimberley Drapack.