'Other' Jason Wright loved, missed
BY JASON ASHLEY WRIGHT World Scene Writer
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
9/21/10 at 8:26 AM
Go to Jason Ashley Wright's Blog
It's not easy writing about someone you never knew.
Sure, we've all done book reports on famous people, some present, others long past. You may spend more time doing it than you'd care to, but the information you need is in some book in the library or even a few keystrokes away on Google.
Beyond the occasional tedium of research, there's a convenience in all those degrees of separation between you and those inventors, composers and presidents we were assigned to write about. It's a breeze to be unbiased when the subject matter is no more tangible than the book you're citing.
But when it's someone, although a stranger to you but loved by so many in your community, it's a little nerve-wracking. Yet I had the opportunity to learn more about someone through the loved ones he left behind - and it's their shared remembrances that make what I'm about to tell you much easier.
For those who didn't, including me, we missed not knowing Jason Wright.
Leaving a void
You might recall a column I wrote earlier this summer about a guy who approached me somewhere in public and said he heard I had died. It was a bit off-putting, but I laughed it off and told you about it a day or two later in the World.
The day that little ramble ran, I received an e-mail from Susan Wright, mom to Jason Michael Wright, who had died of natural causes June 7. She was very polite and just wanted to let me know why that guy came up to me and said what he said. It never occurred to me that he was confusing me with another Jason Wright.
That day, I looked him up online. Didn't take but a few seconds to find him - tennis star at Oklahoma State University, member of Phi Gamma Delta, a drilling analyst for Helmerich & Payne, earned a bachelor's degree in economics, then an MBA.
And he was only 25.
Throughout the summer, a few more e-mails came and multiple voice mail were left. Finally, someone who knew the family suggested I do some research - not online stuff, though. The kind of information I could only get from the people who truly knew him. Considering how highly everyone spoke of Jason, it was easy to oblige.
I contacted Susan, and she invited me to her Broken Arrow home - the same house in which she and her husband, Dr. Jeff Wright, raised Jason and his sister, Amy.
Jason's fiancée, Jessica Payne, was there that afternoon. Jason asked her to marry him May 26 at Forest Ridge.
Theirs was an "immediate connection," Jessica said. In fact, the pastor at First United Methodist Church in Broken Arrow asked them to take a compatibility test before counseling them. They took the test separately, but they scored 99 percent.
He had told Susan, "I'm the happiest I've ever been, Mom," she quoted him. Soon, he'd marry the love of his life and start a home with her and Jessica's adorable daughter, Adi - who, of course, was immediately attached to Jason.
We hadn't been talking long before I knew I wouldn't dwell on Jason's passing when I wrote this. Suffice to say, he was taken too young, way too quickly and left a void in many people's lives. The hundreds of people at his funeral proved that. But it was his legacy we should concentrate on.
First thing you notice in photos was his smile. He was always upbeat. And if he came into the house and wasn't singing, you knew something was up, Susan said.
"He would wake up in the morning with a smile on his face until he passed out at the end of the day," Jessica said.
He was a best friend to everyone. He had tons of friends - loyal friends. Like Marty Castens, who knew Jason since kindergarten, best of friends since fifth grade.
When they were in college and caught up by phone, what with Jason in Stillwater and Marty at the University of Arkansas, Jason didn't talk much about what was going on with him.
"It was always, 'Hey, bubba! How are you? Tell me everything that's going on with you. School, girls, lacrosse, everything,' " Marty remembers. "I would tell him a little, and the next thing you knew, we would be on the phone for an hour helping me with homework, fixing my relationship problems and giving me a new workout plan to help me play better.
"It was always others first," Marty said.
The friends bonded over sports. Jason was very athletic. He'd be watching a game on TV but get bored because he'd rather be outside playing something, Susan said.
"He was not the tallest person in the world," she added with a light laugh. But that didn't stop him from playing basketball in high school. He even played in a national tournament. Same thing with baseball.
But tennis was his passion, having received his first racquet when he was 3. Susan took him to all of his out-of-town games.
His team thought highly of him, as did his coach, James Wadley. A few years ago on OSU's college tennis website, Wadley wrote, "He is everybody's biggest fan. He does anything in practice I ask him to do. (He) deserves a lot of credit for any of the success we have."
Obviously, there are so many more things even I, a mere observer after the fact, have room or even skill to write about someone's life - particularly one that touched so many. On one hand, it almost seems like an insult to try and encapsulate someone's essence in a certain number of words. Then again, it'd be a shame not to because some of you may have never heard of Jason. And that just won't do.
If nothing else, you need to know that he loved life. Every facet of it. He loved to cook - loved making salsa and guacamole, in particular. Loved to laugh. Loved to joke. Loved to sing.
In no small summation, he loved. Period.
"He was a light to everyone he knew," Susan said. "He brought happiness to everyone." She smiled when she said it, as did Jessica. He still brings that happiness.
Even though I never met him, Jason taught me to be less self-absorbed - at least more mindful of it, which is no small feat. And the people he loved, those who went out of their way to tell me why he was so special, are a testament to his legacy of love.
It's a legacy I pray I'll mimic as I build my own, especially considering Jason and I shared a name and all. I hope his legacy proves inspirational to yours, as well - even if it's just working on having a smile on your face from the time you wake up until you pass out at the end of the day.
Original Print Headline: 'Other' Jason Wright loved, missed
In honor of Jason M. Wright's love for education, his family set up a scholarship fund at First National Bank in Broken Arrow. For more, including making a donation, call the bank at 251-5371.
Jason Michael Wright: He was a tennis star at Oklahoma State, where he earned his bachelor's in economics.