“I Heard That”: Remembering Mother Wright – Oakland’s Mother Theresa

by Rochelle Metcalfe on May 20, 2009

SWEET BELOVED MOTHER MARY ANN WRIGHT was called home on Thursday, MAY 7th, as she laid there in Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley. She was 87. She’d fought a good fight, kept the faith, It was her time to CATCH THE ‘A’ TRAIN! A friend to the poor, homeless and down and out, called in 1980 by a vision in a dream to feed the hungry, became a Servant of God!

Mary Ann Wright gave up the comforts of life to help the needy throughout the Oakland – San Francisco Bay Area and beyond; to become an advocate for the poor! Hers was a PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE whose path crossed many lives and lifestyles. She became OAKLAND’S MOTHER THERESA!

Born July 11, 1921, raised in Louisiana, grew up poor, lost her mother when she was only 5 years old, raised by her father. In 1950, she fled an abusive husband and took her nine children by train to Oakland where other relatives lived. Mother Wright remarried, family increased to 12 children, worked two jobs to support her clan.

An attractive savvy woman, plenty game – a go-getter, strong woman of faith and scripture, upon receiving God’s message she started feeding the homeless once a week on Saturdays at Jefferson Park, Downtown Oakland, supported by her $236 Social Security check. The lady was SOMETHING ELSE, UNAFRAID, she would GO UNDER BRIDGES, other dangerous areas, to help someone.

Mother Wright spoke in a FIERY BRIMSTONE preacher style voice, pled her case well to all to HELP! Long time Oakland resident and businessman, JIMMIE WARD, former owner of the popular night club “SWEET JIMMIE’S” said of her passing “She was ONE IN A MILLION who gave up her life for the people – fed the hungry everyday! “ He recalled many times he and his associates helped her raise money to do the service of those less fortunate. One, The late CHUCK JOHNSON, founder/owner SOULBEAT TV used his airways to put on fundraisers. Ward’s heart sadden to see her frail body, unable to surmount the strength to get out there and do her thing! He’d taken her flowers to the hospital.

JAY PAYTON, legendary Oakland Entertainer and producer of the annual TOP STAR AWARDS held annually for over 40 years honoring musicians but also individuals who made a difference in the Oakland community, honored Mother Wright, and close friend who donated. Payton introduced Mother Wright to baseball great JOE MORGAN who gave to her yearly Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners.

THE IRON SOULS Motorcycle Club, a non profit diverse group formed in 1993, supporting a creed of Brotherhood, Respect and Unity, share a common goal of giving back to their community, held an Annual Mary Wright POKER RUN Fundraiser. In 2006 presented her with a check for $24,000! By then a warehouse at 3120 San Pablo Avenue (near 32nd Street) established the home of the Mother Mary Wright Foundation, with the help of leaders of local churches, community groups and city officials, feeds more than 450 people a day on a budget of $137,000 a year! The family WILL continue the Foundation in her spirit…donations, volunteers are needed.

THIS WRITER met Mother Wright many years ago when hearing about her good works serving the poor in Jefferson Park, (10th and Jefferson) rain or shine. The lady was in high spirits, brimming with hope; often wrote about this giving courageous ANGEL. Brought clothing to her Oakland home on ADELINE, an OPEN HOUSE MISSIONARY! Place cluttered with boxes of clothing, nonperishable foods, yard filled as well. JIMMIE WARD shared during our phone conversation She never slept in her bed, but in a chair giving up her chair of rest to someone who needed it more!

An advocate for the poor, she made a difference – a TRUE SHERO who I’m sure became tired and weary begging politicians and others to help, BUT never gave up hope, kept the faith! Many Mother Wrights ARE NEEDED in these times of crisis – FAMILIES SUFFERING – people have LOST jobs, homes, pensions, living in cars – to STEP UP TO THE PLATE to help those who have fallen THROUGH THE CRACKS!

Received information Mother Wright’s HOMEGOING SERVICES will be held Wednesday, May 27 … Her body will lay in state from 10 am to 3:30 p.m., in the JEWETT BALLROOM (downtown Marriott Hotel); CIVIC MEMORIAL SERVICES at the Oakland Convention Center beginning at 6 p.m.; THURSDAY, May 28 – Funeral services begin at 10 a.m. at ACTS FULL GOSPEL, COGIC in East Oakland. Long lines will form.

REMINDED of her words expressed when honored at an awards ceremony some years ago, lyrics from a hymn…”I’M A SHIP WITHOUT A SAIL, AND BY GOD’S GRACE, I’VE COME A LONG WAY. I DON’T KNOW WHAT I WOULD DO WITHOUT THE LORD.” The day of Mother Wright’s departure and WELCOME HOME, God embraced his SWEET ANGEL with “WELL DONE MY GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANT!”

E-mail Rochelle at iheard@earthlink.net

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