Community leader Ron Wright dies
He served on the HTA board and worked for Continental Airlines
Ron Wright, formerly the name and face for Continental Airlines in Hawaii and a longtime community leader, died Monday of cancer. He was 58.
Wright was a 37-year Continental employee, most recently serving as managing director of sales and marketing for Hawaii.
He had served on the Hawaii Tourism Authority board since its inception, including a stint as vice chairman. His participation in the tourism industry helped make a success of programs like the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau's "Aloha Cities" promotional tour.
At Continental, Wright's responsibilities included sales, advertising, public relations, government relations and pricing in the Hawaii and Asia/Pacific markets.
He moved to Hawaii in 1970 as supervisor of Continental's passenger service at Honolulu International Airport, where he oversaw 100 employees. Later, he would be instrumental in developing a strong partnership between the state and the airline, and help negotiate the construction of a new $25 million state-of-the-art maintenance facility at the airport.
"Ron was a long-time friend and someone I greatly admired," said Larry Kellner, chairman and CEO of Continental. "He was invaluable as the face of Continental Airlines in Hawaii, whether dealing with the traveling public or the highest levels of government."
Wright was also known for his involvement with the community, having served on the boards of various non-profits.
Besides serving as vice-chair for the yearlong celebration of the Honolulu Centennial, he was chairman of the American Heart Association Heart Walk. He served on the boards of Diamond Head Theatre, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Honolulu and the U.S. Air Force.
Mayor Mufi Hannemann said Wright was a dear friend of many years.
"Of course, he did a fabulous job in organizing a celebration we'll long remember, but that was so typical of the leadership and energy he brought to every task," said Hannemann. "He was not only a personal friend, but a friend of Hawaii. His aloha for the people of these islands will fill our hearts and memories for years to come."
Dennis Brown, president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Honolulu, said he regarded Wright as a mentor.
Brown credited Wright for helping the organization elevate its annual fundraiser and improve its marketing strategy in the community.
"He's just one of those guys who has so many innovative ideas for ways to approach marketing," said Brown. "He was always humorous and full of creative ideas. There was nothing that was impossible to do."
Friends and colleagues described Wright as someone who was always upbeat and positive.
"He was tireless and relentless, with so much energy, always ready for the next mission or project," said Noel Trainor, general manager of the Hilton Hawaiian Village.
Trainor called Wright a role model for what business leaders should be doing in their community.
Deena Dray, executive director of Diamond Head Theatre, credited Wright with helping to launch the theater's guest artist program. She said he had served on its board for about 10 years.
"We were very lucky to have him on our board," said Dray.
In 2005, Wright retired as a full-time executive from Continental, but stayed on as a corporate adviser. He went on to become the CEO and chairman of the board for Get2Hawaii, an Internet-based company connecting travel suppliers and travel partners with online travel shoppers, until earlier this year.
Wright was also a member of the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce, the Filipino Chamber of Commerce, the Outrigger Canoe Club and Oahu Country Club.
Wright is survived by his wife of 30 years, Lauren; and mother, Jean Reeves Wright of Houston Texas.