At 79, most of us are, or at least hope to be, thoroughly retired. Not so for Gordon Wright, Director of Dining Services and Executive Chef at Whitehouse Country Manor. Wright, who served in the army between 1957 and 1960, claims he will always be busy. “Busy hands, busy feet, busy mind. I have to do something.” That something is preparing and serving food to veterans along with other residents who now reside at the facility.
Cooking was not a part of Wright’s military service. “That was probably the one thing I didn’t do in the Army.” Wright’s service, spread domestically between Ft. Hood and Ft. Carson, encompassed a wide range of specialties including driver, trainer and, eventually, squad leader. He served as a camouflage expert in a missile battalion. “I was fortunate,” claims Wright. “I was always a specialist and always had good jobs. I was ‘soldier of the month’ three times. I am still proud of that and my service.” But no cooking. “Well,” admits Wright, “occasionally, we would sneak over to the mess late at night and fix something.”
Although his military service doesn’t reflect it, Wright comes from a food background. His family owned a high-end restaurant growing up called Mason Maurice in Worthington, OH. “It was upscale French cuisine,” remembers Wright. “When I was 10, my dad said I made the best martini he ever drank.”
Today, Wright shares his cooking talent with Manor residents. “I enjoy serving people. Here at the facility our residents become family. They have a great way of making us laugh. Plus, I love serving people. It makes life worth living.”
Whitehouse Country Manor has worked hard to be best in class when it comes to serving its residents and, in particular, veterans. “We are very proud of our community,” says Lindsay Duke, Admission/Marketing Director for the Manor. “We are a Nationally-Contracted, Community-Based Veteran’s Home. Because of our quality of care and services, we have recently received our fourth and final star for Community Partnership with the We Honor Veterans Program. This is in no small part due to people like Gordon, who seek to honor and respect our veterans and other residents every day.”
Achievements notwithstanding, for Duke it comes back to military service. “Gordon is such a hard worker. He runs this place like a busy restaurant. More importantly, he really cares about our residents. He cares about what they need and like to eat.”
Level of travel
When not serving his fellow veterans, Wright certainly gets around. “One of the reasons I work is to travel.” The 79-year-old and his wife recently returned from a trip to India. Other trips have included Africa, Asia, England and Scotland. “Travel takes money and we love to do it. Travel is a pretty good motivation to keep working.”
Some of that work ethic came from military service. “You really grow up in the military. You learn how to deal with things like unqualified leadership. You learn to cope with situations that are less than ideal. You also learn to do jobs the best you can.” Wright continues wryly, “There weren’t a lot of excuses that were acceptable in the Army.”
Duke openly admires this quality. “Gordon doesn’t just cook food and put it on a plate. He knows that what he does is important and he conveys that in everything he touches. He has great respect for our veterans. He is a classy guy.”
Wright chuckles when he hears that description. “I am not sure how classy I am. What I do know is that the service taught me quite a bit. It taught me how to do the task in front of me, do the best I can, and basic common sense and respect. I carry that with me every day.”
Although Wright may not be quick to acknowledge it, as a veteran serving fellow veterans is by any definition, a “classy” thing to do.