DURHAM — Harold Wright calls his late wife, Naomi Turner Wright, “an absolute saint, the greatest Christian woman I have ever seen in my life.”
Wright has 45 years of memories of the woman who took him to church on their first date and told friends he was “the kissingest man I’ve ever seen.”
But the life that was so full of joy turned into a nightmare for Wright since the love of his life was gunned down March 23 at J.T. Tire on East Geer Street, where she worked as a cashier.
“I felt like, honest to God, that the whole world just fell on my head,” Wright said in an interview at his home Monday. “When I found out about it, if it hadn’t been for (my daughter), I’d have killed myself. That’s how hard I took it.”
Naomi Wright was one of two people killed and two others who were shot when a robber opened fire at the tire store that Friday. Sheriff’s deputies later arrested 24-year-old Obrian McNeil White of Durham and charged him with first-degree murder in the deaths. He remains in the Durham County Jail without bond awaiting trial.
Harold Wright said he’s also lost what little financial security he had, because the $384 monthly Social Security checks he’ll get from his wife’s death put him in a higher income bracket, canceling his Medicaid coverage for medical expenses.
That means that Wright, who takes 46 pills a day for medical conditions, must start paying 20 percent of his medical bills that Medicaid had covered.
For someone whose sole income is a $700 monthly disability check and the $384 in Social Security, that’s a lot of money.
“In other words, they gave me a death sentence,” Wright said. “I can’t pay it.”
Wright takes medication for diabetes, high blood pressure and a liver transplant. He’s had gallbladder and back surgeries, mouth cancer, three heart attacks, six heart stents and eye surgery.
The monthly cost for his medicine is $3,000. Most was covered by Medicare and Medicaid, but now he’ll have to shoulder more of the expense.
“I can’t pay the co-payment,” he said. “How I am going to pay the bills and a co-payment for a doctor? There ain’t no way I can do it.”
The loss of Medicaid means he’ll also lose home visits from a nurse, dietician, social worker and therapist.
“I’ve lost all of that,” he said. “All of it’s gone.”
Wright said that his wife was great at keeping track of his medication. “She was my caretaker,” he said. “She took care of my doctor’s appointments, all my medicine.”
Wright now lives in an empty house - except for his dog - with photos and other reminders of how life used to be.
“I am absolutely, completely devastated,” he said. “I can’t explain my feelings. When you’re with somebody for 45 years, you don’t realize how much of your life is intertwined with them.
“It was such a shock. I never dreamed in a million years that anything would ever happen to her.”
Wright met Naomi when he was 16 and she was almost 18. Their first date was at church. He said he knew he was in love when he first laid eyes on her.
“Oh, she was so pretty,” he said. “I took her glasses off, and I kissed her and kissed her and kissed her. And later on she told people: ‘That’s the kissingest man I’ve ever seen in my life.’
“We walked around the block, and I took her hand, and just kind of looked at her and looked at her, and I thought: ‘Boom!’ And it hit me like a ton of bricks. I didn’t tell her then that I was in love with her, but I knew I was.”
Naomi Wright’s funeral drew more than 1,000 people, and four rooms at the funeral home were filled with flowers, he said.
“She was a great organ player, and all the church really misses her,” Wright said.
“They say that the pain gets better with time, but I don’t see how in the world that it could,” he said. “It seems like a nightmare that I just can’t wake up from.”
But Wright finds peace of mind in knowing that she’s now with God.
“She was just a pure saint - I’m not making that up,” he said. “I believe she’s at the place where we all want to go - heaven.”