Grand Champion legacy: George Wright, puzzle master
Earlier in the summer, The News visited with George Wright, a faithful Salem Senior Life Center attendee and puzzle master extraordinaire. At the time, he was working to complete a 24,000 piece puzzle and was seeking help. His goal was to complete it in time to enter it into the 100th Fulton County Fair, which he did – winning Grand Champion.
Shortly after the puzzle’s completion and his hard work paying off at the fair, Wright’s health began to decline and he passed away on Aug. 31 at his home in Viola. He was 91-years-old, and though his friends and family were left to mourn, he had a memorable time and was proud of the large puzzle.
In the previous article, Wright recalled beginning the puzzle on June 13, 2018. The 24,000 piece puzzle is a panoramic view of a variety of scenes (rural life, ocean, sailboats, lighthouses, birds, planets), and very detailed. It was a difficult puzzle but even with only one eye, Wright was determined. Due to issues with a retina on his one eye, he would use a magnifying glass and light.
Not only did Wright spend time at the center working on the puzzle, he also made trips to Mountain Home (Home Depot and Lowe’s) to search for the perfect surface to use as a base.
Jody Sparks, director at the center, helped Wright as a volunteer before she took on the position as director. She had also completed a “Needle in the Haystack” puzzle with Wright.
The puzzle also had sentimental value, Sparks explained previously. “Cindi Poulson donated the puzzle in memory of her neighbor, Kermit Overfield. She said he said he was always going to get it done and he never did, so she brought it down here for us to do in memory of him.”
At the time of Wright’s interview, he had experienced a slight set back but was quickly back on track. He was also appreciative of Sparks and her help along the way. “If it hadn’t been for her [Sparks], I wouldn’t have got it put together,” he said.
One of the more memorable and funny moments involving the puzzle was transporting it to the fairgrounds. Luckily, Sparks was able to borrow a cattle trailer to haul the puzzle to the exhibit building.
Wright’s obituary referenced his love of puzzles. “He enjoyed working puzzles and fishing. George loved to work in the garden and was often called a master at gardening. He loved his family and spending time with them especially his grandkids,” said the obituary found on the Doty Family Funeral Service website.
A funeral service was held in Salem, and Wright was laid to rest in Texas, where he was born.