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Robert G. Wright, former Suffolk police detective, dies at 78


Robert "Bob" G. Wright, a man who dedicated his life to caring for others and ensuring their safety, has died at age 78.

Robert G. Wright, with his signature coifed hair and dapper style, embodied confidence no matter the occasion: from the dance floor, a la Fred Astaire, to the streets as a Suffolk County police detective and Estée Lauder's right-hand man for security.

Wright, a resident of Spruce Creek, Florida, died June 28 in Smithtown of cancer complications, family said. He was 78.

"From when he started as a foot patrolman, through his life and career as a police officer, he was a leader. Everyone called him 'Big Bob,' " said Wright's son Christopher Wright, 56, of Port Jefferson. "One thing that was always the case was his family. My father was always there."

Born of Irish ancestry in 1935 to Sally and George Wright, of Jamaica, Queens, he was the older of the couple's two sons. Wright graduated from Jamaica High School in 1952, and enlisted in the Naval Aviation Corps.

During his tour of duty in the Korean War, Wright qualified as a military aviation communications and navigation expert, and was honorably discharged in 1956, family said.

Wright's cousin introduced him to Rosemarie Grippo, of Brooklyn, and it was love at first sight, Christopher Wright said. The couple married the following year and remained together until her death in 1980.

Robert G. Wright worked in sales and engineering from 1957 to 1962 in ultrasonics -- using sound waves for microscopic cleaning -- family said. The stint landed him on Johnny Carson's "Who Do You Trust?" show to demonstrate a jewelry cleaning device, said daughter Diana Curylo, 47, of East Patchogue.

In 1962, Wright joined the Suffolk County Police Department in Hauppauge. He was promoted by Commissioner John L. Barry to detective in 1965 after nabbing an armed bank robber via a car chase with another officer, according to a Newsday story.

"It was in his DNA," said daughter Elizabeth Wright Kahane, 53, of Manhattan. "He wasn't the type of person to stay out of it and mind his business. He wanted to help and protect people."

As a detective, Wright spent eight years in the Organized Crime Unit of the Suffolk County district attorney's office Rackets Squad, said Christopher Wright, adding that his father was once considered to become Suffolk's police commissioner.

Wright was elected president of the Suffolk County Detectives Association in 1973, remaining through 1975 when he became director of security at Estée Lauder. Kahane said he often accompanied Lauder to her engagements, adding, "She wouldn't get on a plane without my father."

Wright received a bachelor's degree in labor management from Stony Brook University based on experience, and received a master's degree from the university in 1983, family said. He retired from Estée Lauder in 1991 as vice president of corporate safety and security.

Wright was known for upholding his Italian wife's tradition of cooking Feast of the Seven Fishes Christmas Eve dinners and boating on the Great South Bay before he retired to Florida, where he was an avid golfer, Curylo said.

"He just loved life," she said. "He always used to say that 'it's been a good run.' "

In addition to his children Christopher, Diana and Elizabeth, Wright is survived by son Robert Wright Jr., 52, of Marietta, Georgia; brother James Wright, of East Patchogue; and eight grandchildren.

Services were held at Bryant Funeral Home in Port Jefferson Station. Wright was buried in Calverton National Cemetery next to his late wife.

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