Avis “Iris” Wright, 88, passed away on Thursday, March 2, 2023 at Eagle Crest South in La Crosse, WI.
Iris was born to Alfred and Gladys (Cronk) Segelstrom of Minneapolis, MN on October 12, 1934. The death of two children and a devastating house fire combined with the Great Depression proved too much for the Segelstroms. They separated, and their five remaining children were sent to live with different relatives. At age five, Iris went to live with Fritz and Elsie Wegge in Delano, MN.
Later, in 1941, at age six, Iris was referred to the State Public Orphanage in Owatonna, MN along with brothers, Al and Bruce. Four years later, she was sent to live on a farm with Ralph and Elfie Sutherland of Fountain, MN and stayed with them until graduating from Chatfield High School in 1952.
At age 16, Iris met her high school sweetheart and future husband, Richard (“Dick”) Wright. Their romance started with a hayride and continued for 72 years. While Dick completed his two years in the military, Iris worked in Chatfield and Rochester until her brother, Al, invited her to live with his family in Santa Ana, California in 1955. She boarded a train in Winona that June and traveled to California, where she found a job on the second day of her arrival. Meanwhile, Iris and Dick wrote letters and made life plans.
On October 26, 1955, Iris and Dick were married in the Pioneer Presbyterian Church in Chatfield on a beautiful fall day. Following the wedding, they lived in in Olympia, Washington until Dick’s service finished on January 13, 1956. They packed their 1949 Chevy to the hilt and returned home to the Wright family farm in rural Chatfield.
Iris’ lifelong passion was art. She belonged to the Chatfield Artist Group for many years, winning awards at local, regional, and state competitions for pen & ink drawings, oils, watercolors and sculpture. She attended various art classes both in college and at the Rochester Art Center. She loved it enough to take the Greyhound bus to Rochester, walk to the art center and catch the bus back to Chatfield in evenings. This love of art and learning continued throughout her life, and culminated in her graduation in 2001 from Winona State University, Magna Cum Laude, at age 66.
Iris wrote “Iris Blossoms and Boxing Gloves,” a shared memoir with her brothers, Bruce Sutherland and Al Fowler, about their lives and experiences in the orphanage. Fortunately, over time, Iris was reunited with all of her brothers. Iris was deeply impacted by her early years. Family was everything to her. She devoted her life to her husband, her children and her faith.
Iris was an intelligent, creative, kind and funny woman. Even at the end, it was hard to get ahead of her quick wit. She appreciated the beauty of the natural world and translated this view into many paintings of rural life. Iris loved reading, dancing, bible study and worship, and of course, her family.
Iris is survived by her children: Ernie (Julie) Wright, Morgan Wright, Elizabeth Wright (Robert Smith) and Tom (Maria) Wright. Dick and Iris have seven grandchildren: Amanda, Ethan, Isaac, Luke, Paul, Peter, and Leo, and two great-grandchildren. Iris was preceded in death by her loving husband, Dick Wright, of 66+ years as well as her biological parents—Alfred and Gladys Segelstrom, the Sutherlands, and all of her brothers (Urban Segelstrom, Raymond Segelstrom, Virgil Segelstrom, Al Fowler, Earl Segelstrom and Bruce Sutherland).
The family wishes to thank the wonderful staff at Eagle Crest South MC4. They provided Iris with more than care—they gave her a quality life wrapped in kindness (along with a bit of humorous banter).
When Dad passed in August, we knew they wouldn’t be apart long. We hope they are on a twilight hayride in Heaven—holding hands and enjoying the peace of a life well lived.
Funeral Service for Iris will be Friday, March 10, 2023 at Chatfield Lutheran Church, in Chatfield with Pastor Nissa Peterson officiating. Visitation will be at the church one hour prior to the service. Burial will be in the Chatfield Cemetery following the service.
Riley Funeral Home is assisting the Wright family with arrangements. Online condolences are welcome at rileyfuneralhomes.com
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