Peggy Lee (Kindell) Wright, 1965

Fall 2022 (September 26, 2022)

Peggy Lee (Kindell) Wright of Decorah died June 17, 2022, at the Arlin Falck Assisted Living facility of Barthell Eastern Star Home in Decorah.

A private family grave-side service was held. Personal condolences and reminiscences would be welcomed by the family at 404 Fifth Avenue, Decorah, Iowa 52101. Memorials may be shared with the Decorah Public Library, the Winneshiek Medical Center Hospice, Arlin Falck Assisted Living, the Humane Society of Northeast Iowa, or a charity of choice.

Peggy Lee (Kindell) Wright was born on June 13, 1924, in Versailles, Ohio, to Ellen Marie Begien Kindell and George Thomas Kindell. When studying nursing at Ohio State University, Peggy met a medical student named David W. Wright, and was united in marriage to him on Dec. 28, 1945. When Dr. Wright opened his medical practice in Decorah in 1954, she began her residence here of nearly 70 years. During the 40 years of her husband’s career, Peggy provided the devoted support that helped make his work in medicine possible. In 1971, the Wrights together volunteered for service through an effort established by the three Lutheran synods to place doctors around the world.

The Wrights spent two months in Africa, in the small tribal village of Zor-Zor in Liberia. They took the reins of a 100-bed hospital, replacing a doctor from St. Paul who was forced to return home due to illness. Assisting her husband at every turn, Peggy spent most of her time trying to establish and maintain sanitary conditions at the hospital and in their living quarters. A lifelong devotee of literature and one of the world’s great readers, Peggy served for 34 years on the Board of Trustees for the Decorah Public Library. She was also a longtime member of, and author of a history about, Decorah’s Monday Club, a group that continues to provide leading annual support for the Library. Guided by a profound faith, and sincere belief in the power of forgiveness, she was a member of Decorah’s United Methodist Church since 1954.

Active in many clubs and organizations, she recently received recognition from the P.E.O. for her 70-year membership. An appreciation for beauty in all its forms was an innate passion of her life. A patron and advocate of the Norwegian American Museum (later Vesterheim), Peggy pursued a long interest in art and antiques. When first visiting the Winneshiek County Fair barns in the 1950s, she was amazed and fascinated by the rosemaled trunks being used by Decorah youth to store their animal brushes and supplies. She remembered with fondness the Norwegian language being spoken up and down Water Street.

Peggy Wright’s most important contribution to Decorah may lie in her life’s work: the rehabilitation, renovation, and preservation of the Smith-Stabo house where she lived for nearly 60 years. Since its construction in 1892, the house has been the residence of Decorah doctors for 115 of its 130-year existence. It became one of Decorah’s most historic structures in 1939 when Dr. Trond Stabo, Vice Consul for Norway in Iowa, hosted a dinner at the house for Crown Prince Olav and Crown Princess Märtha during the first visit of Norwegian royals to this country. During Dr. Stabo’s ownership, the house was visited by Ole Rolvaag, Herbjørn Gausta, Roald Amundsen, Fridtjof Nansen, and many other  dignitaries. The house was also the site of the first meeting of the Symra Literary Society of which Dr. Stabo was founder in 1907 and charter member. In 1967, to benefit the Tuesday Evening Hospital Unit, the Wrights opened the house to the public for tours during the first Nordic Fest. Peggy Wright and her family are particularly grateful to the staff of Arlin Falck Assisted Living, especially Sheena Dix, Valerie Lee, Kaylor Assum, Jackie Gesing, Hailey Dull, Jessica Duffield, Jill Brusse, Tara Kleiner, and Mary Croatt; and to the Winneshiek Medical Center Hospice team, especially Jennifer Nahl and Jennifer Vogel.

Peggy Wright was preceded in death by Dr. David Wright in 2013. She is survived by her daughter, Ellen E. Wright, and partner Eric Bouquin, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; her son, David W. Wright, Jr., and daughter-in-law, Jeanne Leyen Wright, Decorah; and her grandson, David W. Wright III, Staten Island, New York.