Roy Wright

May 18, 2018

Roy Allen Wright, ethnohistorian and historical linguist, died with great comfort, dignity, and courage on May 18, 2018 at Hopital Notre-Dame in Montreal, with children and friends at his side. He was born on May 15, 1941 in Springfield, Massachusetts from the marriage of Edward F. Wright and Patricia Fagen. His father had a family tree with Abenaki lineage, and his mother’s had Mohawk, Huron, and Micmac lineage, which explains his cherished connection to the Iroquoian people. His forebears from the French Canadian and British side included links to the family of Philemon Wright, founder of the European settlement at what is now Ottawa-Gatineau.

Roy is predeceased by his brother, Bruce Wright. He is survived by his children, Thora Vilhjálmsdóttir Wright of Kopavogur, Iceland; Eva Wright of New York, NY; Elsa Spencer of Charlottesville, VA; and Andrew Wright and his wife Demia of Chapel Hill, NC; an adopted daughter Patty Martley and her husband Charles of Fayston, VT; and eight grandchildren.

Educated at Harvard, with additional training at MIT, Roy worked summers mapping the surface of Mars at the University of Texas at Austin. After two years as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Bucharest in Romania, he returned to Harvard to pursue a doctorate in linguistics. In 1968, Roy began a teaching career that encompassed more than a dozen universities and colleges.

Roy consulted widely and freely with anyone who loved knowledge. His expertise was vast, ranging from astronomy and the history of science, to anthropology, ethnohistory, etymology, and historical linguistics. Above all, Roy was a hyperpolyglot, who spoke eight languages fluently, could carry on a conversation in twenty-five others, and had studied or taught sixty-three languages in total. Of these, there is no doubt that Iroquoian languages were closest to Roy’s heart. He enjoyed nothing more than visiting with his many friends at the Mohawk Communities of Kahnawake and Akwesasne. His Kanien’keha name, Tekastiaks, meant “chatterbox” and no one who met him would question the choice.

Roy’s publications include several astronomical works from the 1960s co-authored with the late French astronomer Gerard de Vaucouleurs and linguistic notes in Along the Hudson and Mohawk: The 1790 Journey of Count Paolo Andreani. Since the 1980s, he has freelance consulted and been a fellow at the Newberry Library and the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau.

Roy’s family would like to sincerely thank the medical professionals and close friends who supported and accompanied him during his final weeks, and who facilitated his wish to begin his journey to the spirit world after a long illness.