Style & Substance: The Bright Family
by Jennifer Nugent
He’s built business after business, maintaining his identity as a serious businessman and entrepreneur during the day and going home at night to have dinner with his wife and play with his three daughters. His gifts for insight and innovation are just the top layer of this multi-faceted man.
Bright of America, Bill Bright’s first business, was well on its way to success when he met his future wife Patty while skiing one February at Seven Springs Mountain Resort. “I was looking for the prettiest girl I could find and I thought she was the prettiest,” he recalls of their first encounter. The result of a whirlwind romance was their elopement in New York City that September. They later had three daughters.
Bill, the busy professional, had to find a way to balance work with his home life so that he could continue in his success without missing out on the childhood of his daughters. He enjoyed being the only man in the house and remembers all the good times with his girls.
In 1990, after selling Bright of America and his coal company, Bright Coal Corporation, Bill founded Bright Enterprises, a melting pot of different businesses. Through the years he has hired dependable and competent managers and can now take time away from the office to spend with his wife, daughters and two grandchildren. He enjoys skiing, a hobby he shares with his wife; the couple recently returned from a ski trip in Italy.
A modest man, he takes his success for what it is-the result of hard work-and is appreciative of the things he has accomplished. He has found a career that he loves and he has excelled in it. More than the job, though, is the importance of giving back to his community in Summersville.He is proud of his wife for her involvement in projects in the area and tries to be as involved as his time will allow. Over the years this has included Board of Directors positions in the West Virginia University Foundation, the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center, the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, the West Virginia Manufacturers’ Association, the West Virginia Roundtable and a new strategic planning committee for Nicholas County.
Unlike many high achievers native to West Virginia, Bill never thought about going anywhere other than Summersville. Embracing his roots, he began Bright of America with his brother John in his hometown, bringing jobs, income and stability with him. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking with his wife, whether hiking from their Summersville home to beautiful areas nearby or in the mountains near the Gauley and New Rivers where they can enjoy the beauty of West Virginia first-hand.
A Moment with Patty Bright
He was standing in the ski resort, looking much the role of the debonair yet rugged type with his cowboy boots, cowboy hat and corncob pipe. “Why do I always fall for that type?” Patty, a 26 year-old from Cherry Valley, Pennsylvania, asked herself.
Seven months after that initial encounter at Seven Springs Ski Resort she exchanged vows with that same man, and now settled in their beautiful home on Bright Pond Road, Patty and Bill Bright are living their happily ever after.
Growing up just outside of Pittsburgh, Patty went to college with the idea that she would never want to return to a small town, but when she married Bill, she found that Summersville, much like her hometown, was easy to fall in love with. “I love it,” she says, sitting on a sofa in the pink living room of their home referred to as the “fundraising” room because it’s large enough to accommodate fundraisers and meetings for groups in which Patty is involved. “I love looking out at the calm and the peace of this area-it’s just beautiful. I wouldn’t live anywhere else.”
The couple has three grown daughters: Anne, Elizabeth and Sara. Patty recalls that Bill loved being the only man in a house full of girls and says that today the girls go to him for everything. “I basically raised them-you know, fed them, bathed them, went to school with them, until Bill could step in with his role, and today he is their greatest source of strength. It is heartwarming to see them go to him for advice, especially concerning their careers.”
Patty, with a background in Education and Counseling, worked for two years at Bright of America before having their first daughter. While remaining on the Board of Bright Enterprises, she became a stay at home mom and a volunteer for efforts in the community. Patty was overwhelmingly elected to the Nicholas County Board of Education in 1984. In 1990, the Governor appointed her to the newly formed State College Board of Education where she served for the next six years. In 1996, she joined the Board of Friends-R-Fun Child Development Center in Summersville, guiding them in the process to become a 501(3)c, a non-profit organization, which now could receive tax-deductible donations. In 2001, her efforts, combined with the founders of Friends- R-Fun, solicited monies to build a free health care clinic, a gymnasium and an expanded space for The Family Learning Center. With the help of a federal grant for $450,000, and other donated funds, they built a $1 million building called the Community Health and Education Complex (CHEC). This free health care clinic is now operated in conjunction with a similar federally funded clinic.
Aside from fundraising, Patty teaches healthy cooking lessons in The Family Learning Center to introduce the students to a healthier vegetarian diet. Individuals can also take GED and diabetes classes at the center. Patty founded the Bright Foundation in 2005, something that has become a major part of her life. She and Bill give back to the community through the foundation by awarding a scholarship to a senior at Nicholas County High School each year and contributing to medical schools, medical causes, medical research and individuals or organizations trying to make a difference in the community and in the state. She enjoys touching others’ lives and giving of herself, something that she says she learned from her mother. She now sees that same giving trait in her daughters.
Patty’s volunteering has not only helped the community, but she finds that it has helped her as well. “It has made me a more relaxed human being because when you are only wrapped up in your own little world, you do not see the big picture. With volunteering, you see another side. You learn to be compassionate.” The most important lesson she has learned by volunteering has been finding patience within herself. A deep belief in God and in being an aide to others has brought her patience along with a sense of peace.
A painter and a potter, Patty plans to pick up her brushes again and get the creative juices flowing. She enjoys hiking and skiing with her husband and family. She also has experience in interior design- something self-taught out of necessity when Bright Enterprises bought Glade Springs Resort. She also calls herself a master mechanic because she spends so much time keeping up their immaculate home along with her loyal companion, Mickey, a Cairn Terrier that doesn’t know a stranger.
Feature Photography by Tracy Toler
Pages 109 – 111 Spring 2007