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Mary P. Wright, 1945 - 2021

Fern Davies

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Mary P. Wright, age 76, of Gilsum, New Hampshire passed away on Monday, July 19, 2021. Mary was born January 13, 1945. She had been a bander at the Appledore Island Migration Station since 1987. She wrote of her time on Appledore, "In 1985 I went to Appledore for a bird study weekend and was fascinated by the bird banding operation. Decided I had to learn more ... maybe I could find someone in southern New Hampshire who was banding sparrows or whatever. Within a week of getting home I got a flyer from the Bronx Zoo saying a group of volunteers was going to Patagonia to band penguins and would I like to join them? So I ended up in Argentina with a handful of humans and hundreds of thousands of Magellanic Penguins. When I returned I sent penguin photos to David. He didn't remember me, but he said if I came out to the island again, I should introduce myself, which I did. David said, "You're serious about banding, aren't you?" and told me he was thinking about starting a class; would I be interested? So I was in the very first Dangle, Tangle with Mac McKenna and Phyl Hatch. Hard to believe that was almost thirty years ago." She was also a devoted supporter of New Hampshire Audubon. Her many contributions which enabled that organization to start Project Nighthawk (a project I coordinate), and most recently to conduct research on Northern Harriers, and implement a new bird tracking technology called Motus.

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A more complete obituary is found here: https://www.sentinelsource.com/news/obituaries/mary-patterson-wright/article_77a231d8-1c45-52b8-b9cf-99d667b0c0fb.html




Mary Patterson Wright died on July 19, 2021, at home in Hammond Hollow in Gilsum. During her last year she was supported by neighbors, family and hospice. She was 76 years old.

Mary was born to Mr. and Mrs. John P. Wright (Ruth McCaffery) on Jan. 13, 1945, in Keene. She attended Keene schools and Concord Academy in Concord, Mass. She graduated from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., as an English major.

Mary was committed to the natural world. She was passionate about ornithology from a young age, having her own flock of chickens while in 2nd grade, and later maintaining a flight of pigeons. She was a lifetime member of the Wilson Ornithological Society, Eastern Bird Banding Association, Birds Carribean, Tristan da Cunha Association and Falklands Conservation.

She was a lead bander at the Appledore Island Migration Station at the Isle of Shoals Marine Laboratory for almost 30 years. She also banded Magellanic penguins in Patagonia. This past spring she was extremely proud to have completed her 33rd season with Project FeederWatch, making her one of the longest continuous contributors to that dataset, tracking migratory birds throughout North America. She also collected field data for a similar project, FrogWatch.

In addition to her passion for ornithology, she also felt a deep obligation to the ethic of land ownership, working with local foresters to ensure that her property was well cared for and supportive of the local plants and animals.

Giving back to the community was important to Mary. As a college student she was a Winant Volunteer in London in the summer of 1964 and at St. Hilda’s East Settlement House in London the following summer. She served her town of Gilsum as a Trustee of the Trust Funds and on the Board of Adjustments. She also volunteered at the Cheshire Medical Center in Keene for many years.

Insatiably curious, Mary was a voracious reader. She could hold an informed conversation on almost any subject. She believed deeply in education and attended the Cheshire Academy for Lifelong Learning program at Keene State College for many years studying a variety of subjects. She enjoyed periods of quiet, proudly eschewing any radio on a solo cross-country drive across America.

Mary was an active practitioner of tai chi; had studied to be a doula; was a natural teacher; and practiced African drumming. She completed multiple ocean crossings on the Sea Cloud, the world’s oldest oceangoing passenger ship.

In addition, Mary was devoted to the correct usage of the English language. Many a relative was corrected on the proper use of the transitive verb and the difference between “lay” and “lie.” For a period of time, she worked for The Keene Evening Sentinel. She had a keen sense of humor, loved to laugh, and could tell a good tale, often beginning with, “did I ever tell you about ...?”

In 1969 she married Joseph F. Phelan Jr., from whom she was divorced in 1976. Together, they moved to, and subsequently restored, a house in Hammond Hollow in Gilsum in 1972. Mary cared deeply about her Hammond Hollow community.

Mary is survived by nieces and nephews: J.B. Wright and his wife, Loren, of Woolwich, Maine; Susan Wright and her partner, Tom Wyatt, of Warwick, Mass.; T. Spencer Wright and his partner, Bridget Jacober, of Santa Fe, N.M.; Sarah Stanley of Naples, Fla.; Georgia Wright of Fairfax, Calif.; Jock Wright and his wife, Mary, of Wilton, Conn.; and Joshua Wright and his wife, Gabrielle, of Chestnut Hill, Mass.; and by step-niece and nephew, Kate Wear of Keene, and Will Wear and his wife, Laura, of Lincoln, Mass.. She leaves behind great-nieces and nephews: Anna, Sam and James Wright; Lily and Holliday Wear; John and William Wright; Sam and Patrick Stanley; Emily (Nathaniel deVelder) and Benjamin Stephens; and Sienna Wright; great-great nephew Elliot Stephens; sister-in-law Patricia Wright of Peterborough; and former sister-in-law Georgia Spencer Wright of Sebastopol, Calif. Mary was predeceased by her brothers, John M. Wright and Thomas P. Wright. She had seven step-siblings.

A celebration of Mary’s life is planned for September. Details will be available from DiLuzio Foley And Fletcher Funeral Homes in Keene.

In Mary’s memory, the family asks that you take five minutes, sit quietly and really listen to the natural world all around you. In the space that we call “quiet” the natural world is speaking — through bird calls, the gurgle of water, the sound of wind in the leaves and other sounds of nature. Commit to listening and to fostering those voices.


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