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Long-time Port Coquitlam arts champion Thelka Wright dies

Wright, 80, was named the City of Port Coquitlam's Lifetime Volunteer in 2015.
Thelka Wright of Port Coquitlam passed away on Feb. 18, 2023.

A long-time Port Coquitlam resident best known for her volunteer work in the city’s arts and culture community died last Saturday (Feb. 18).

Thelka Wright was 80.

Born in Mussoorie, India, Thelka Wright was the daughter of an army officer and lived in Libya, Germany and England for his military postings.

She finished high school in England and studied home economics at Northern Counties College before meeting her soon-to-be husband, Michael; her father was his commanding officer during his two years in the British Army.

The couple married 59 years ago, in August 1963, and had a daughter, Samantha, before immigrating to Canada in 1965.

They moved to the northern side of Port Coquitlam in 1967, when their second child, Ashley, was born.

While in PoCo, Thelka Wright worked at the library and, with Michael and other library friends, was instrumental in having the city build its own library, which was named the Terry Fox Library in honour of the hometown hero.

“That was the whole reason she pushed me into becoming a councillor in the city,” Michael Wright remembered.

“I could push from within to realize a city-owned facility.”

A former board member of the Eagle Ridge Hospital Foundation and the Port Coquitlam Theatre Society, Thelka Wright also taught cooking at night school and won accolades for her flower arranging and cake decorating.

And she was dedicated to the evolution of Leigh Square, PoCo’s arts centre.

However, it was her devotion to the CDMF Performing Arts Festival Society where she made her mark.

The PoCo festival, which celebrates its 70th year next month, sees hundreds of young speech, vocal and piano performers compete for a spot at the provincial level.

“I think that’s her biggest legacy in Port Coquitlam — the time that she spent being president and running the music festival all those years,” Michael Wright said.

In 2002, Thelka Wright was recognized for her efforts with a Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal.

In 2013, the city presented her with the Arts, Heritage and Cultural Awareness award and, two years later, she was named PoCo’s Lifetime Volunteer.

“Thelka leaves a wonderful and lasting legacy in Port Coquitlam,” Mayor Brad West said.

“In particular, her contribution to the arts and culture of our community continues to have such a positive impact. She had a vision and was steadfast in her commitment to see it come to life.”

Michael Wright said he’ll miss their trips around the world, having retired early to explore by cruise such places as South America, Australia and Myanmar, where her mother was born.

Thelka Wright is survived by a granddaughter, Zoe.

A celebration of life will be held on Sunday, April 23 — on Saint George’s Day — in the Mabbett Room at the Port Coquitlam Community Centre (2150 Wilson Ave.) from 1 to 4 p.m. In lieu of flowers, donations are requested to be made in Thelka Wright’s name to the Crossroads Hospice Society, Eagle Ridge Hospital Foundation or any charity of choice.