A group of Queen’s Royal College/Bishop Anstey Catholic High School alumni in Toronto have been meeting for breakfast at a restaurant every Friday morning during the summer for the past five years.
Philomen Wright, an integral part of the group and a past president, was not with the friends for their end-of-summer weekly get-together last Friday. She lost a lengthy battle to cancer two days earlier.
Wright was 66.
“Last Friday was Trinidad & Tobago’s 50th independence anniversary, so that celebration, in a sense, transcended the sorrow,” said close friend Carole Clyne who met Wright in high school 54 years ago. “We said a prayer and we observed a moment of silence…I will remember her as being very forthright and someone who stood out.
“Her mother was an executive at Shell and her father was a practicing attorney and Philomen took a little bit from her parents who are our first examples.”
A graduate of the University of the West Indies, Wright was a Girl Guides member, civil servant and teacher in Trinidad & Tobago before migrating to Canada in 1970.
She was a personal banking manager with Toronto Dominion Bank for 15 years up until 1989 when she was appointed to the Ontario Rent Review Hearings Board, a position she held for 14 years.
Wright also served as a member of the License Appeal Tribunal of Ontario, conducting quasi-judicial hearings on appeal from various statutes, including the Highway Traffic Act and the Motor Vehicles Dealers Act; the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, serving in the Refugee Protection and the Immigration Appeal Divisions; the Ontario Advisory Council on Multiculturalism and Citizenship and the Ontario Council of Regents for Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology.
“This was a lady that was involved in areas hidden from the public, but nevertheless making important contributions that benefitted members of society,” said retired Toronto District School Board high school principal and Canadian Ethnocultural Council past president, Emmanuel Dick.
She sat on OMNI TV’s advisory board, was affiliated with the North York Black Education and Race Relations committee and was a volunteer member of the United Way of Greater Toronto’s governing board of trustees before being appointed a Justice of the Peace in May 2007.
“Philomen was well respected, admired and held in very high esteem by fellow Justices of the Peace,” said Dr. Odida Quamina who was appointed five months earlier. “Forthright and principled in her approach to her work, she was also a very good and loyal friend and confidant.”
Librarian and raconteur Dr. Rita Cox and Wright worked together on several community projects, including the successful Kumbayah Festival in the early 1980s.
“She was a very good friend and someone who was interested in the arts and contributing to the community,” Cox said. “She made her mark and will be dearly missed.”
Wright is survived by her children Richard Wright, Tisa Wright-Marshall and Dr. Dionne Wright-Poulton.
“Our mom was brilliant, beautiful, kind, generous and principled,” said the children. “Even though she was working and actively involved in her community, she and our late dad (Wilbur Wright also died at age 66) spent quality time with their children and taught us well. This is evident in the fact that we have our own families and we are all doing well professionally.”
By RON FANFAIR