Paula was born July 25, 1952 in Elko to Betty and Paul Bear. She was the youngest of three children. As a young girl she lived at the Devil’s Gate Ranch. Owners of the ranch, John and Peggy Rutman were her godparents. In 1958, the Bears moved to Elko and purchased J.M Capriola Company. From age 6 on, Paula was a businesswoman, learning how to tool leather, run a cash register and wait on customers. Always with a smile and great enthusiasm.
Paula was always an organizer. At age 6, she was too young to join 4-H so she formed her own Pony Posse Club. She was ever conscious of community involvement — she sent a note to fellow Elko 4-Hers telling them to help or they would have two black horses and a red wagon (two black eyes and a bloody nose). Paula’s kind heart gave in before she became the enforcer.
As a young girl she was active in Girl Scouts, 4-H and horsemanship, and school activities.
Doug and Paula were married October 16, 1971 in Elko at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.
John Douglas Wright came into their lives August 28, 1981 and has been the joy of their lives since then. John was a special gift, born in Salt Lake City. When Paula and Doug picked him up, she carefully placed him in a cardboard box lined with blankets for the five hour trip to Elko. He’s been their treasure since then. Like Paula, he grew up behind the counter of J.M. Capriola Co. and is the third generation to join the business.
Paula was active in numerous civic and non-profit activities in the community. She was a devoted and tireless volunteer and fundraiser, twisting many arms for support in her latest projects. Among her many endeavors were Elko County Cattlewomen, Soroptimist International (traveling to national and international conventions with her mother, Betty). Her latest project was chair of the Centennial Committee for the Silver State Stampede. Paula would always be selling you a benefit ticket — from Lions Candy to Soroptimist Wine Tasting and her latest project — Silver State Stampede Centennial packages.
She was widely recognized throughout the West for her knowledge and appraisal abilities in western gear and memorabilia. In 2004 she co-wrote “Legacy of Silver and Saddles” about the Garcia, Capriola and Bear families creating and crafting western gear. She knew all the gear makers, past and present. The J.M. Capriola Co. museum in the store displays many of the store’s collection.
With J.M. Capriola Co., Paula took gear to rodeos and horse show in the western states including Hawaii. She and Doug, sometimes with Betty, traveled overseas to Equitana in Germany, and Mt. Isa Rodeo in Australia, making lifelong friends wherever she went. She recruited or “voluntold” many friends and family as assistants.
There wasn’t a stranger in her life. Paula greeted visitors to the store with a warm “Welcome to Elko.” She was widely recognized as an extraordinary businesswoman with passion to help people and various community endeavors. Paula’s knowledge of cowboys and events — when they rode, where they rode and what they won — was remarkable.
Paula’s latest project was celebrating the Silver State Stampede Centennial. She felt very passionately about the rodeo’s 100th birthday. Her primary focus was to have the rodeo be a community wide event with community members involved participating, volunteering and attending.
Paula died on Wednesday, June 20 from a horse riding accident. She is survived by her husband Doug, son John and wife Susan, two grandchildren Charlie and Audrey, mother Betty Bear, brothers Bill and Bob as well as numerous nieces, nephews and cousins. Her father, Paul, died in 1994.
Family was ultimately most important to her. Every Thursday was “Grammy” day. She took the day off from work to devote the day to Charlie Paul and Audrey Marie Wright — her pride and joy.
She will be greatly missed.
Funeral services will be Friday, June 29 at 10 a.m. at Elko Convention Center.
In lieu of flowers, donation may be made to Silver State Stampede Centennial Event, J.M. Capriola Co. 500 Commercial Street, Elko, NV or any other charity of donor’s choice.