MARYSVILLE — Dozens of sports-lovers, firefighters and community members gathered at the Rudy Wright Memorial Field on Saturday, April 13, for the unveiling of a mural dedicated to a man who gave his life for his community — Rudy Wright.
Wright owned Rudy’s Recreation, a sporting goods store on State Avenue, and was a lifetime supporter of children’s sports. Since he worked in close proximity to the fire station, he often responded to calls as a volunteer firefighter. It was in this act of selflessness that Wright’s life was cut short on Nov. 3, 1970, when he was struck by a vehicle on Interstate 5 while on duty.
“I didn’t get to play on this field, but I did get to coach on this field, and for most of you who have grown up in this community, I suspect that’s true for you,” said Jim Ballew, Marysville Parks and Recreation director. “We are here to dedicate some time and memory to a man who dedicated his life to our to our safety and well-being, which in turn cost him his life.”
The mural was funded by the Marysville Fire Foundation, the Marysville Firefighters Association and the International Association of Firefighters Local 3219. For the dedication ceremony, the Marysville Fire District Honor Guard presented the colors, as local firefighter Keith Taylor sang the national anthem. The Honor Guard then ascended the steps up to the top of the third base stands to prepare for the unveiling. Leo Carlos, president of Marysville Little League, spoke during the ceremony, which was meant to precede a baseball game, though the weather prevented it.
“It’s still a great day for what we are doing for Rudy Wright,” said Carlos. “We at Little League understand what Rudy Wright did for us as a firefighter, and having that mural permanently on third base will just remind the community. I’m going to be honored and happy every time I drive past that mural and know that I was part of it.”
Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring spoke to the crowd about Wright’s life as a Marysville resident.
“It is so fitting that we have this mural honoring Rudy Wright at Rudy Wright Memorial Field,” he said. “He was a very sincere individual who would give himself to volunteer. Rudy was a Marysville-Pilchuck High School graduate. He went into business on his own ... I know he would love to have this mural right here where kids are all playing sports. The tragic part of this story is the day that Rudy gave his life in service to his community. Even though that was 43 years ago, it still strikes us today as a sobering thing, and it is fitting that we remember Rudy Wright, who gave his life.”
Nehring and Patty Pendleton, Wright’s daughter, counted down from three as the Honor Guard unveiled the mural, which had been painted by local artists Gene and Sheri Waggoner.
“I was surprised,” said Pendleton, of her reactions to the mural idea. “I found out in December and I was definitely surprised after all these years.”
The field had been named for Wright immediately after he was killed. “The accident was terrible for me and our family. I’m proud of him. He was a good person and a good dad. It’s unbelievable that they would do this for him after all those years. It’s wonderful. I just wish my mother was alive to see it. I love it.”
Gene and Sheri Waggoner began painting the mural in January. The painting depicts Wright and another firefighter helping young baseball players.
“We worked at it in our studio in Granite Falls,” said Sheri Waggoner. “We worked on it six days a week for six or seven hours a day.”
The Waggoners have painted windows and murals in Marysville for years, including the highly visible mural painted on the side of the Nelson building at Fourth Street and State Avenue.
“You know, I did the window painting for Rudy’s daughter Patty, on Fourth Street when she had the hair salon, so I thought, ‘Oh! Small world,’” said Gene Waggoner, and his wife agreed.
“I used to work on Third Street too, so it is a very small world,” she said. “We may be out of Granite, but we have adopted this as our community.”
The mural is visible to drivers passing through on Cedar Avenue.
“When I think of this right here, how fitting to have our kids walk past this mural and hopefully ask questions and wonder, and gain an understanding of the sacrifices that are required sometimes for keeping communities safe,” said Nehring. “We proudly recognize this man, Rudy Wright, who gave his life to help others.”