Norman Perry Canright was born 13
Jul 1917 in Thermopolis, Hot Springs, WY, d: 18 Jun 2007 in Galveston,
Galveston, TX. He married on 16 May 1943 to Mary
Margaret "Margery" Mitchell. She was born 23 Oct 1917 and died 18 Apr 2005 at
San Francisco, San Francisco, CA. Her parents were Rowland L. Mitchell
and Violet D. Burbank.
Norman and Mary had 2 children:
1. David Canright married and has a daughter
2. Steven Canright married Marjorie Baer and has a
|Norman Perry Canright
GALVESTON — Norman P. Canright, 89, a journalist, a Western American
radical, a business executive in the stuffed animal trade, and a 70-year
resident of the San Francisco-Bay Area, died peacefully at the home he
shared with his son and daughter-in-law in Galveston, Texas on June 18,
2007. As he died, his granddaughter, Lindsay, held his hand and sang one of
his favorite songs.
Norman was born to Charles and Edna Canright in Thermopolis, Wyoming, on
July 13, 1917, one of four sons and a daughter. His father, born in
Minnesota, had wandered restlessly west, once staking a homesteader’s claim
on the high prairies of North Dakota, then moving west to Wyoming. Along the
way, Charles came into contact with the “Wobblies,” the International
Workers of the World in the lumber camps and train yards where he worked,
and he understood the struggle between capital and labor. In Thermopolis,
Charles ran the pool hall in town and his sons delivered newspapers. When
Norman was 14 years old, early in the Great Depression, the family moved
west again to Oakland, California, to join the eldest son, Earl, who had a
job there as a barber.
Norman was first of his family and the only of his siblings to go to
college. His unusual talent with the written word earned him a scholarship
to the University of California at Berkeley. He graduated in 1939, having
served as the editor of The Daily Californian, the campus newspaper. His
editorials at the Daily Californian, reflect a growing consciousness of the
plight of the working class and particularly with the anti-Fascist struggle
then raging in Spain. A child of the Great Depression and of a working-class
family, he was drawn to socialism, embracing trade unionism, anti-racism,
government economic action, and anti-Fascism.
After graduation, Norman joined the Farm Security Administration, a New Deal
agency concerned with the well-being of agricultural workers, particularly
of refuges from the Dust Bowl states of Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas who had
migrated to California’s Central Valley. It was here, in Visalia,
California, that he met Margery Mitchell, another young idealist with the
FSA, who was to be his wife for more than 60 years.
When war came, Norman served with the U.S. Army Quartermaster corps, rising
to the rank of Master Sergeant. He was stationed in Long Beach, California,
though the couple had settled in San Francisco where they lived until
Margery’s death just over two years ago.
After demobilization, Norman and Margery joined the Communist Party USA and
took jobs with the West Coast party newspaper, the San Francisco-based Daily
Peoples’ World. Both had a keen sense of the duty that educated people must
accept to promote social change and Norman’s training with the daily
newspaper at Berkeley equipped him to serve as copy desk editor of the
paper. Margery, a graduate in Humanities at Pomona College, served as
librarian and reporter. A son, David, was born to them in 1945, and another,
Stephen, in 1947. The family throve on “movement pay” and conviction in the
gritty working class Mission District at the heart of San Francisco.
The relevance of the Communist Party to progressive change in America became
increasingly questionable in the following years, but the onslaught of
McCarthyism firmed people of principle, like Norman and Marge Canright, in
their resistance to an attack on Americans’ basic freedom to question the
direction of their government. The confirmation by Nikita Khrushchev in 1957
of the horrific misdeeds of Joseph Stalin was the final disenchantment for
the couple, as it was for many others, and they left the party that had
provided both a purpose in life and a livelihood.
Faced with the need to support his family, Norman plunged into commerce at
the age of 40, first working on the docks as a ship’s clerk, until he was
hired as a temporary clerk with a small importing company, R. Dakin &
Company. When the F.B.I. called company president Roger Dakin to suggest
that he might not want to hire a “Red,” he reportedly told them to mind
their own business. Norman quickly advanced to sales manager, then to vice
president for sales, and member of the board of directors, as he helped to
build R. Dakin into the second largest firm in the nation in the benign
business of plush stuffed animals.
During his years at R. Dakin and following his retirement in 1988, Norman
and Margery traveled the world, including early forays into China and Tibet.
In San Francisco, the couple enjoyed the rich cultural life of their adopted
city, especially the San Francisco opera of which they were devotees and
patrons for more than three decades. For many years, the family took annual
backpacking trips to Big Sur and Yosemite and summer vacations with extended
family in Cape Cod.
Norman always said that his success in business was due, in part, to his
ability to write a good business letter, and he was a good writer, but it
probably had more to do with the fact that he was a good and unfailingly
likeable man. An affectionate and devoted husband, a loving and supportive
father, his deeply inherent qualities of warmth, humor and consideration for
others persisted even as dementia robbed him in retirement of his memory,
and finally, of his ability to persist.
Norman is survived by his two sons, Stephen and David Canright, his
daughter-in-law Marsha Canright, his granddaughters Lindsay, Nora and Julia
Canright, two brothers, Richard and Earl Canright, a brother-in-law, Rowland
Mitchell, and many nieces and nephews. Memorial plans are pending, but
donations in lieu of flowers are suggested to Libbie’s Place, where Norman
found new friends and a nurturing environment in his last years in
Galveston. Special thanks and gratitude to friends and caregivers Ed Hebert,
Dale Rittenhouse, Elizabeth Kramer, Brandon White and members of the Hospice
Care Team, especially Michelle and Eric, who gave so much gentle, loving
care to Norman and his family.
J Levy & Termini Funeral Home
Published July 3, 2007
Galveston Daily News