After moving west from Illinois in 1972, Judy Wright turned into a civic leader and amateur historian whose active role in her community earned her a telling nickname: "Ms. Claremont."
She arrived as a "faculty wife" whose husband taught economics at what is now Claremont Graduate University. She spent more than a decade on the City Council, served as mayor in the 1980s and helped found Claremont Heritage, a group dedicated to preserving local history.
Wright, who published two books about Claremont, suffered cardiac arrest New Year's Day and died Jan. 7 at a Pomona hospital, said her husband, Colin Wright. She was 72.
Her first book, "Claremont: A Pictorial History" (1980), was essentially a pointed response to an architect who was hired to survey the town and concluded that it had few preservation-worthy buildings, she told The Times in 1981.
She orchestrated another survey that cataloged 700 important structures within six months. Instead of architectural merit, a more inclusive measure was employed to identify structures, trees and other features that gave the area its character. More than 3,000 were noted, and she used the research for her book.
When a second edition of "Claremont" was released, The Times named it one of the best nonfiction books of 2000. Her "well-informed" tales accompanied pages of photographs of "heartbreakingly beautiful" turn-of-the-century houses, many of which still existed, The Times review said.
Upon moving to Claremont, the Wrights bought a 1927 Monterey Revival-style home, where she lived the rest of her life.
Her civic accomplishments include playing a leading role in bringing Metrolink service to Claremont and successfully pushing to turn a historic railway depot into a transit hub.
In 2007, she published her second historical tome, "Claremont Women: 1887-1950." Wright liked to say that men built the seven Claremont Colleges and "the women built the town."
"The books are wonderful, but she didn't stand on the past. She was always building the future," said Diann Ring, who served with Wright on the city Planning Commission and City Council. "It's hard to imagine a Claremont without Judy Wright."
She was born Judith Campbell on March 25, 1939, in Provo, Utah, and grew up in Salt Lake City. Her father was a superintendent of education who later taught at the University of Chicago.
After attending Brigham Young University, she earned a degree in elementary education from the University of Utah and got married in 1962.
"She was very friendly and outgoing, tenacious without an edge," her husband said, "and never took no for an answer."
In addition to her husband, she is survived by her son, Campbell Wright of Claremont; five grandchildren; and two siblings, Patricia and Bruce.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Jan. 28 at Bridges Hall of Music at Pomona College.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times