WILMINGTON — The end of an era was marked just past 8 p.m. Jan. 7, 2017, when the spirit of Janine Kasten Wright, 86, known to all as “Nana,” departed this earth, leaving her earthly body and attire for a pair of strappy, three-inch, Garrelini heels, with a matching Halston halo and wings.
Some women are just born with it, and she was. On Oct. 13, 1930, during the first, crushing year of The Great Depression, she was born to Roy Joseph and Iola Mae Kasten. Janine’s story was as classic, as she was. She was the oldest of seven children.
Her childhood memories paint vivid images of the last century. She recalled horse and buggies trudging through unpaved streets of Eden, N.C., later to be paved by chain gangs of German prisoners of war. Stories of picking berries, collecting scrap metal to earn money, and of course, the long walks to and from Lakeside School ,where the only shortcut was across a bridgeless river.
At 15, she went to work in the textile mills during the summer to afford her flair for 1940s fashion and stand-out style, which she wore like skin through out her entire life.
After graduation, she took a job in Reidsville, N.C., at The Children’s Bazaar, a prominent clothing shop, where she worked her way up to buyer and manager. This was a time when women were scarcely allowed to work. She was active in local theater and landed the lead in “Sabrina.”
Hanging out at Short Sugars after play practice one night, she met the man of her dreams, David Wilson Wright Jr. He was a senior at Wake Forest University. They were engaged and she was “pinned” at the Kappa Sigma house on the Wake campus. They were married at Bethesda Church in his hometown of Casville, N.C., where she became a lifelong active member, writing Christmas pageants, christening their children and faithfully attending, bringing them in late every Sunday.
As a young couple, Janine and David Jr. joined a local theater group, “The Little Playmakers,” traveling to raise money for charity. Janine wrote and directed the annual “Casville Jubilee” and numerous variety shows to raise money for Piedmont Academy, where her children attended school. She was a bit of a poet, a painter, and always a humanitarian, constantly feeding the sick, the old and anyone in need.
Janine unexpectedly became a farmer in April 1977 when David Jr. died suddenly on a golf trip with his friends. The tobacco crop had to be in by May. With grace, she hauled the help in her Oldsmobile because she could not drive a straight. Her diamond clad hands carefully placed every leaf of tobacco into the sacks. A woman of exceptional beauty, decked to the nines, she swept through the male-dominated warehouses and managed the farm another decade. She went back to school in her early 60s and was the oldest student and valedictorian of her nursing assistant’s class while volunteering for hospice in her spare time.
She is survived by her brothers, Edward “Ham,” Jerry, Mike and Larry Kasten; beloved sister, Dorothy “Dot” Evans, and the late Anne Kasten Ethridge; precious sisters-in-law, Carol, Gracie and Wendy Kasten, all of Eden, N.C.; daughters, Jean Wright Antoniades and Julia Kathryn Wright; son, the late David Wilson Wright III; and grandchildren, Anadel King Ricks and Franklin Whitaker Ricks Jr., Taylor Dawn Wright, Harry Nicholas Antoniades and Stephen Kasten Wright; great-granddaughters, Peyton Jean Heffinger and Eliza Juliettte Heffinger; and loving goddaughter, Pamela Hodges Rice.
Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 21, at Bethesda Presbyterian Church, 779 Allison Road, Ruffin, N.C.
Wilkerson Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.