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Historian Dorothy Wright dies at age 67

Dorothy Wright, a historian and historical preservationist who helped create oral histories and authored and published booklets, articles and pamphlets about Las Vegas history, has died at age 67.

Dorothy Wright, who retired in January 2010 as program administrator with Clark County Parks and Recreation’s Cultural Division, died Jan. 19.

She was born Feb. 5, 1948, in Spokane, Wash. She moved to Las Vegas from Seattle in 1969. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1971 and a master’s degree in history in 1981 from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Wright spent many years as vice chairwoman of the Las Vegas Historic Preservation Commission. She also served on the Nevada Humanities Committee.

While on the Humanities Committee, Wright helped former Las Vegas Review-Journal writer A.D. Hopkins put together a grant program to create “The Pioneer Tapes,” a project in which oral historians interviewed old-timers who had done important things in the community. The tapes of the interviews were archived for future use.

Hopkins called the tapes a significant addition to Nevada history.

Wright was also responsible for publishing “Nevada Yesterdays,” a collection of historical essays published by Stephens Press, written by her late husband Frank Wright, a “wonder-worker in preserving Nevada history,” Hopkins said.

“She was one of those people who didn’t have a real high profile, perfectly willing to let other people have the credit, the upfront people,” Hopkins said.

Patrick Gaffey of Winchester Cultural Center spoke glowingly of Wright’s accomplishments, saying she helped establish Winchester Cultural Center as the only cultural center in Clark County.

Wright nominated Betty Willis’ “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign to the National Register of Historic Places; its inclusion was approved in 2009.

Wright was also a driving force behind the creation of the Neon Museum, serving on its board and as its secretary. As the museum’s facilities committee chairwoman, she oversaw the La Concha Motel lobby’s move to the Neon Museum Boneyard; the lobby now serves as the museum’s lobby and visitors’ center.

Rob McCoy, chairman of the Neon Museums board of directors, called Wright “irreplaceable.”

“Not just the Neon Museum but Las Vegas in general has lost a friend,” he said.

Wright is survived by her husband, Richard Avila; her son, Christopher Ritenour; granddaughter, Aras Edison-Ritenour; grandsons, Shak and Cruz McCrea; her sister, Bridget Aldaraca and her husband, Ed; and brother, James Steiwer and his wife, Jeanette; stepchildren, Tony Avila, Christy Taylor, Anna Avila and Aaron Avila, and Krysta; eight stepgrandchildren; and two stepgreat-grandchildren.

Contact Christian Bertolaccini at 702-383-0381. Find him on Twitter: @bertolaccinic


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