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Kenneth H. Wright

Kenneth H. Wright died December 3, 2002 in Tualatin, Oregon, at age 81. Ken was born April 21, 1921, in Michigan, N. Dakota. His interest in forestry began with planting windbreak trees in North Dakota for the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the dust bowl era. In 1941, he earned an associate degree from the North Dakota School of Forestry in Bottineau. He served in the Navy during World War II, from 1944 to 1946. In 1948, he earned a B.S. degree in forest management from the University of Washington, and, in 1950, an M.S. degree in forest entomology from Duke University.

Kenneth H. Wright; photo published in American Entomologist, Summer 2003His professional life began in 1948, as a biological aid in the Bureau of Entomology and Plant Quarantine (BEPQ) in Portland, Oregon, where he worked for the rest of his life. In 1951, he was appointed an entomologist in the BEPQ and then joined the staff of the Pacific Northwest Forest and Range Experiment Station (PNW Station) when the Bureau was transferred in 1954 to the USDA Forest Service. During his early years as a research entomologist, Ken's work was mainly developing chemical, silvicultural, and biological controls for several forest insects. He wrote or coauthored several publications relating to the western spruce budworm, Douglas-fir beetle, Sitka spruce weevil, Douglas-fir tussock moth, balsam woolly adelgid, and seed and cone insects associated with Douglas-fir.

In 1967, Ken was appointed assistant director of the PNW Station and served in that position until 1974, when he was appointed program manager of the expanded Douglas-fir Tussock Moth Program, a westwide accelerated research program headquartered in Portland. In 1978, he was reappointed assistant director of the PNW Station, with administrative responsibilities for all Forest Service research in Alaska and various research units in Olympia and Seattle, Washington. Ken remained in that administrative position until he retired in 1987.

After retiring, Ken continued to work long hours as a Forest Service volunteer; he received an award for more than 6,000 hours of volunteer work in 1994. Much of his volunteer work focused on Alaska research - strengthening funding and documenting Alaska's forest research history - and also that of the Bend Silviculture Laboratory and the Pringle Falls Experimental Forest in central Oregon.

While retired, Ken was president of the Oregon Chapter of the National CCC Alumni Association and had a key role in establishing plaques at former sites of CCC camps in Oregon. He was also a key contributor to the campaign that raised money for a life-sized bronze statue of a Corps worker, erected in Salem, Oregon. During his professional life, he was active in the Entomological Society of America, Society of American Foresters, Northwest Forest Pest Action Council, Western Forestry Conservation Association, and other professional societies.

Ken was a conscientious, ethical, disciplined, hard worker and famous among his colleagues for the long hours he spent at work - 50 to 60 a week seemed to be the norm. Anyone who worked with him learned to expect phone calls on Sunday nights so that no time was wasted getting organized Monday morning. He was a stickler for record keeping: every phone call required copious note taking. His encouraging coworkers to adopt that practice likely saved many of them later embarrassment.

Work started early with Ken, and little official time was lost getting to the work site. Ken was a joy to work with and to be around, especially in informal situations. He had a sort of farm-boy, down-to-earth attitude with a fine sense of humor. He loved to tell jokes and funny stories, and he always laughed loudly when he heard them and told them. Ken's style when visiting a unit was not to sit in an office and discuss mundane matters like budget. He had friends everywhere and was happiest when he could be in the field and talk to people where they worked.

As a research manager, Ken had the admirable trait of pitching in and helping out whenever he visited a field site. He delighted in being part of the crew, no matter how difficult or dirty the task. He gained the respect of all levels of the organization and, in the process, learned what was really happening during a research project. In Alaska, Ken was in the field so often he was fondly known as "Mister Alaska."

Bernadine Gresham, his loving wife of 50 years, preceded him in death in 1998. He is survived by a son, Steven, daughters Elizabeth Anne Toms and Sandra Lee Wright, sisters Ruth Reiten and Carole Rottle, and two grandchildren. He will be greatly missed by his family, and by many friends and colleagues.

This obituary, published in American Entomologist (49(2); summer 2003), was prepared by:

Martha H. Brookes (retired) 
3560 NW Harrison Blvd.
Corvallis, OR 97330
Russel G. Mitchell (retired)
60837 Willow Creek Loop
Bend, OR 97702
Boyd E. Wickman (retired)
1196 SE Shadowood Drive
Bend, OR 97702
PNW Research Station, USDA Forest Service