Wronko's Roxbury Notables

Headed for 91, Doreen Wright is a Roxbury Treasure

Doreen Wright, with family, at her 90th birthday party Credits: Carl Wronko
Doreen Wright Credits: Carl Wronko

Doreen Wright was born Jan. 28, 1926 and will be celebrating her 91st birthday next month. So, to start off, I am sending an early Happy Birthday wish to her.   

What is even more special about Doreen is that she was born at home in her parents' house on West Street in Succasunna, a fact that makes her the only Roxbury resident I've found who's truly lived their entire life in the township. We will not count the few years, early in her marriage, when Doreen lived out of state while her husband was attending college, so Doreen's time as a Roxbury resident thus exceeds that of her friend Charles Alpaugh, the subject of an earlier article, who spent his first five days in Dover Hospital before being brought home to Roxbury.    

She was the only child born to her father, Benjamin Hosking, and her mother, Annie Hosking, nee Stelce, being delivered by Dr. Noble Henry Adsit, who had an office in his home at 109 Main St. in Succasunna. Her mother was the co-author/compiler, during her retirement years, of several books on the history of Roxbury.  

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Shortly after Doreen's birth, her parents moved to 21 Eyland Ave. which was the home where Doreen's mother Annie was raised and where Doreen would also be raised. 

Doreen attended grammar school in Roxbury at the Lincoln School on Hillside Avenue where she walked each day from her home on Eyland Avenue. There were no school buses then. 

Her kindergarten teacher, fondly remembered, was Miss Cropton. 

Crossing Route 10 was not a problem simply because there was no Route 10 at that time! Doreen does recall the construction of the road, but could not remember the dates. She told me that the sand used to construct the road came from several pits in the area that filled in with water and are now used for recreation: Horseshoe Lake, Triple Lake and Chesler Lake.  

There was a ranch on Triple Lake, near where Main Street intersects with Route 10 today, that was a source of entertainment. Doreen recalled that horses would get loose from the ranch and wander on Eyland Avenue  until someone came to collect them.  Also, during the winter, the owner would hitch the horses up to a sleigh and give the children rides up and down Main Street and through surrounding snow covered areas. 

Upon completion of grammar school, Doreen attended high school at the Roosevelt School, newly constructed at the time. I asked her about high school activities and was shown her yearbook from 1943. There were club activities and sports that she enjoyed attending and watching, but what was unique – even then – was the firing range in the basement of the building. 

The high school rival at the time was Dover High School. While in high school, Doreen was among the first girls to start and join a Girl Scout Troop that is still active. She recalled being about 16 at the time and that there were 10 other girls who joined with her.   

Her high school graduating class numbered about 72, but since Roxbury was then a 'sending' school - or perhaps I should say 'receiving' school - a majority of the students came from outside of Roxbury, as do Mt. Arlington students today.    

Doreen remembered John B. Shambaugh who was the principal of the high school at the time. She said "nothing got past him and when he walked down the hall everybody behaved themselves."  

It turned out, as we spoke some more, that Mr. Shambaugh, being a single man, rented a room in her parents' home and that the room he boarded in is still called "J.B's" room by the family in fond remembrance of him!     

Doreen told me also about being in geometry class during World War II when a huge explosion shook the building.  Hercules Powder had just blown up and more than 50 employees died in the explosion. She remembered it took days to go through the debris and to find all the people who were missing.  

It was a disaster that greatly shook up the community. Although it was never proven, folks in town believed it was the result of sabotage by German agents.  

Doreen also told me about being assigned to Civil Defense, run locally by Warren Bull. She was in high school then and Bull gave her a uniform and assigned her to patrol Main Street and control traffic as needed. She didn't recall being needed much but she was ready! She also related the joy in ringing the church bell at the Methodist Church in celebration of the end of the war. 

When Doreen graduated high school in 1943 she was voted Most likely to Succeed.   Interesting enough, one John Leroy Wright in the class of 1942 was voted Best Looking. More about John Wright in a bit. 

Upon graduation, Doreen applied to and was admitted to Trenton State College and began her studies to be a teacher. She left school and became a teacher in Roxbury while she continued to pursue her degree in education which she earned over the next 14 years when  marriage, teaching part-time and raising children began to occupy her talents.   

She would teach into the 1960s. She did recall that her first day of substitute teaching was in her daughter Susan's 2nd grade class at the Franklin School. 

Now back to John Leroy Wright. John also lived on Main Street just a few houses down from where Doreen grew up. His father was Rev. Leroy Wright, the Minister of the Methodist Church, on Main Street. So basically Doreen and John grew up together and knew each other ever since the Wrights moved into the parsonage on Main Street.    

As she related their story to me, it seemed she and John were very attendant choir members where they would stand in back of the choir holding hands unseen by the other members! When I asked her if I could include that story in my article on her, she smiled and said "that would be nice."   

On April 6, 1946 Doreen and John were married at home by the Rev. George Jackson also of the Methodist Church. They honeymooned with a trip to Philadelphia and Washington.    

John had served in the Army during the war and using the GI Bill he enrolled at Wabash College in Indiana where he studied physics. Upon John's graduation, the couple returned to Roxbury with their growing family.    

They moved in with Doreen's parents for a while before purchasing the home where Doreen still resides today on Main Street in Succasunna. John would teach high school in Summit and Chatham for a few years before finding employment at Picatinny Arsenal where he would work as a physicist for more than 30 years.  Doreen went back to teaching part time in Roxbury while raising her growing family. 

Doreen and John (Jack) Wright had five children: Daughters Carol Searle, Susan Wright, Linda Yates and Sarah Shaw; and a son named John Leroy Wright, Jr.  All  grew up in Roxbury and graduated from Roxbury High School.    

She now has seven grandchildren: Ron, Victoria, Heather, Thomas, Tammy, Hilary and Kian. And, she has two great-grandsons and a brand new great-granddaughter. 

Doreen became involved in Girl Scouting with her daughters as they grew up and was likewise involved with Boy Scouts with her son. He earned his Eagle Scout Badge while a member of Troop 54.   

She was a charter member of the Roxbury Woman's Club where she would become deeply involved in the establishment of a library for Roxbury. The club started fundraising and in time purchased a house from Nicholas Stenech that was converted into the library where the present library sits on Main Street today.    

The building was originally the home of Theodore Wolf and was called the 'Queen Ann' house.   The initial supply of books came by way of a donation secured from the Morris County Library and from fundraising proceeds.  

Upon Doreen's retirement from teaching she volunteered to work at the library and after four or five years she took a full-time position as the assistant librarian under Librarian Nick Fogarty. It was a job she enjoyed for more than 21 years.  

She loved her commute, it being a short walk across the street from her home to the library.   The old library building was eventually razed and replaced with the new building that stands on the site today. If one looks at the library now you will see a gazebo in the front to one side.   Well, that gazebo was part of the original structure and is all that remains of it.  

In addition to her activities in establishing the Roxbury Library, Doreen was an active member of her church, the United Methodist Church on Main Street, where she still serves as president of the Woman's Association.    

She was instrumental in establishing the first Succasunny Day celebration which initially began through  the efforts of the Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church and the library. Along with Charles Alpaugh, she has been an integral part of establishing and maintaining the Roxbury High School Alumni Association. She held the office of vice president and secretary until just recently.  

One of her most fond memories was helping to set up a bus trip for Roxbury High School students to attend the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy in 1960.  She was also a recipient of the James Sprow Award given by the James E. Sprow Memorial Foundation (named after a former mayor of Roxbury) "for Significant Contributions of Time and Talent, Whenever and Wherever the Need Arises." 

Doreen Wright was a font of information about earlier days in Roxbury Township. I only touched on the 'tip of the iceberg' of her knowledge in putting this article together. She not only saw our community grow but was an active participant in the town's growth and we all owe a debt of gratitude to her.    

Next time you walk into the Roxbury Library take a moment to recall what she did to bring it into  existence and how it greatly benefits our town. Thank you Doreen, and again - I wish you a very happy upcoming 91st Birthday. May you greatly enjoy it with your family and friends!

Roxbury is full of special people. Longtime Roxbury lawyer, and former municipal judge, Carl Wronko highlights their lives and deeds.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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