Born in Spokane to Ray E. Sayler and Lily J. Heden, the family moved to Seattle in 1922. Emily graduated from Garfield High School in 1937 and attended a business college. Emily’s parents moved to the Island shortly after the first bridge was built in the early 1940s.
She married L. Burgess Wright in 1940. A lifelong meat cutter, Burgess died in 2002. They were married for 63 years. Emily and Burgess had two sons, the youngest was, Darryl W. Wright, who graduated from Mercer Island High School in 1963. Darryl was one quarter away from getting his degree in Forestry from the University of Washington, when he got mononucleosis. By the time he was well, he was drafted and within three months he was killed in Vietnam in 1968. Emily is survived by her son, Michael, who graduated from Mercer Island High School in 1959. Michael graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in Editorial Journalism.
After Darryl’s death, Emily volunteered at the Veterans Hospital for five years and was very active in the Gold Star Mothers for 12 years, a national group of mothers who have lost their sons in war. Emily also volunteered at a nursing home on the Island for several years in the 1980s.
Emily had a passion for gardening and she loved animals. She adored her delightful Shih-tzu dog, Mrs. Peabody, and her three Siamese cats. She also loved feeding and watching hummingbirds in her patio.
She and Burgess traveled extensively during the 1970s and into the 1990s. Her favorite destination was the Orient, especially China.
When Emily was a little girl during the Great Depression, little would she know that years later she would have traveled to over 20 different countries. She said of her travels:
“I have gone to the top of the Sydney Harbor Bridge in Australia, where families of cats live. They spend their entire lives there, along with their cat toys. And what a view they have.”
“I saw the Mona Lisa at the Louvre in Paris and saw her stare right back at me”
“In Amsterdam I visited the art museum with Van Gogh’s collected works. As you see the chronology of his art, you can also see the man going mad.”
“In London I shopped at Harrods, the world-famous store where The Queen shops. People wait on you wearing tuxedos and you can purchase everything from a can of soup to a casket. The place was huge.”
“I had cocktails at Raffles, the place in Singapore where Ernest Hemingway hung out.”
“I went to China three times and saw the Forbidden City and the terra cotta soldiers. There was still so much more to see.”
“I traveled down the Rhine River and got to visit castles that were a 1,000 years old.”
All of this experience gave Emily a renewed appreciation of all her material possessions.
She was a very talented artist who had a knack for creating a beautiful and welcoming home for her guests. She enjoyed cooking and entertaining and she was very sharp at word games, especially Anagrams. Her bright mind was keen until the end. She always loved meeting people and enjoyed new experiences.
Emily valued her friendships immensely. When she was four years old in 1922, she met Marjorie Lee. By the end of their first day, they had gotten into a “grass fight” and never wanted to see each other again. It turns out that their friendship thrived for 90 years. While visiting her grandparents in Spokane when Emily was about 16, she met Orva Angle, who also shared a common aunt with her, but from a completely different family. She and Orva were friends for 80 years, as Orva died three years ago.
Emily was a voracious reader and when her vision began to fail she easily adapted to “talking” books. She loved biographies and romance novels.
Emily’s faith, optimism and sense of humor always helped to get her through life’s toughest trials.
She often said “her greatest joy in life was bringing up two wonderful boys.” Her sons were the fortunate beneficiaries of having such a devoted mother and wonderful friend.
Emily was always a champion for the underdog. Even though she lived just on Social Security she helped to support a family in Louisiana, who had been left homeless by Hurricane Katrina.
Friends describe Emily as elegant, extremely kind and thoughtful and a thoroughly gracious hostess. Emily was always a loyal, loving friend and mother.
A special recognition and thanks are in order for Dr. James Bergman of the Group Health Factoria Clinic, Emily’s personal physician and the Group Health Eastside Hospice Team, which includes Social Worker Kate Walter, Spiritual Counselor Patti Des Roches and Nurse Carson Furry, all of whom provided the finest loving care possible.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations could be made to: Washington Talking Books and Braille Library, 2021 – 9th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98121 or to The Habitat for Humanity, 121 Habitat Street, Americas, GA 31709.