Mary Elizabeth (Webb) Wright was born at home on 6th Street in Palmyra, NJ, on January 9th, 1921, to James Benjamin and Hilda Roberta (Steth) Webb. Preceded by her oldest brother, James Benjamin Webb, Jr., Mary was the 2nd second child of five siblings that included Hilda, Janet and Harry.
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When Mary was 6 years old, her mother passed due to complications while giving birth to her youngest brother, Harry. That and the socioeconomic hardships that soon befell America and the world, known as the Great Depression, led Ben Webb Sr. to distribute the children amongst relatives in southern New Jersey and Philadelphia, PA. Mary lived with her Cousin Helen, first in Palmyra and then in Bridgeton, NJ. She eventually lived with her Aunt Sadie in Riverton, NJ, and attended grade school in Riverton and high school next door in Palmyra.
She was stellar athletically in school, starting in the 6th grade, in field hockey, basketball and baseball. In high school a girlfriend helped her to further manifest her love of music by teaching her the basics of playing the piano. She had already been active in glee clubs starting in grade school and continued singing in choirs throughout college. Because of the amazing Pastor Barker, Mary’s singing voice was first revealed when she became active in the Junior Choir at Mt. Zion AME in Riverton, starting at age 9.
When she was 13, her father, “Pop Webb”, married Sarah (Burwell) Webb. It was then that Pop Webb moved the family back together to Penn Street right next door to Mt. Zion AME. However, her youngest brother Harry, remained with the Guy family who had adopted him in Philadelphia.
Mary matriculated at Glassboro State Teachers College in Glassboro, NJ (now Rowan University), from 1939 until 1943, graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree. She was the first member of the Webb family to have the opportunity to pursue and earn a college degree…Later, in 1943, another pivotal door was opened for Mary. A first-grade teacher at Court Street School in Freehold, NJ, Mrs. Reed, went on maternity leave. Mary took over Mrs. Reed’s class until she returned in the fall. That same September, Mary began teaching a 5th grade class in Woodstown, NJ. Staying in touch with a fellow teacher in Freehold, Mary landed and continued her career a year later back at the Court Street School, where she taught 3rd grade for 5 years. Freehold was one of the first school districts in New Jersey to become integrated. Because of integration, the Court Street School was temporarily closed and Mary was reassigned to the Hudson Street grade school. From there she eventually became part of the teaching staff at the Freehold Annex & Intermediate School, from which she retired in 1986.
Many of her former students have kept up with Mary by way of posts on her son’s Facebook page. They continue leaving comments to this very day including fond memories of how she took time to work with them individually and that she was one of their favorite teachers.
Throughout her life and teaching career, she was an active member of the Freehold Borough community, particularly as a member of the Bethel AME Church, as a choir member and with the Stewards Board. In 1958, she fell in love with Roger Wilson Wright, a Merchant Marine Seaman, Master Carpentry Craftsman and Published Author from Hampton Roads, VA. They were introduced on Easter Sunday by Roger’s Cousins Jim and Rachel Perry at (you guessed it) Mt. Zion AME Church. They married in July and together they passionately raised one child, Vincent, while residing just one and a half blocks from the recently reopened (now integrated) Court Street School.
In 1987, Roger retired from his very successful career as a self-employed Independent Home Restoration Contractor. He and Mary moved to Onancock, VA, where Mary worked as a substitute teacher in the Accomack County School District for 7 years. She reestablished her community activism with the local Retired Teachers Association and, of course, with Bethel AME Church in Onancock. Her contributions included being Secretary of the Finance Committee, regularly substituting as a pianist, as well as singing with the Senior Choir.
Roger passed on April 30th, 2003 and Mary continued living in the house they had lovingly built together in Gargatha (Parksley/Bloxom/Nelsonia), VA, now with her son Vincent and his wife Florence, both of whom became active Virginia Eastern Shore Faith-Based Community Members and Contributors.
Answering the final afternoon bell, Mary boarded the last train up to her Heavenly Graduation on Friday, November 1st, 2019. She is lovingly missed and remembered by her son and daughter-in-law, Vincent and Florence Wright and their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, her sister-in-law, Edna (Washington) Webb, Roger’s sister-in-law, Dot Wright, and Roger & Mary’s many nieces, nephews, extended family, friends and others who continue their ongoing LIFE STUDIES…