ELKO — Paula Wright, longtime businesswoman and owner of J.M. Capriola Co., was killed in a horse accident Wednesday evening.

Elko County sheriff’s deputy Len Van Natter said medical personnel were dispatched at 8:03 p.m. to Greencrest Place in Spring Creek, after it was reported that a horse had fallen on top of a woman.

According to the sheriff’s office, Wright’s horse stumbled as she attempted to mount it, dislodging her to the ground. As she fell, the horse reared and fell, landing on top of her.

When medical personnel arrived on the scene Wright was unconscious but breathing. She was transported by Elko County Ambulance with Summit Air support to Northeastern Nevada Regional Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 9:16 p.m.

“It’s just a shock to the community — the ripples are amazing,” said Julie Groves, who works at J.M. Capriola. “She knows everyone and is a friend to everyone.”

Wright, alongside her husband, Doug, purchased Capriola in 1985, and have ran it ever since with their son, John. The business has been owned by the family since 1958, when Paula Wright’s parents, Paul and Betty Bear, purchased the store.

It was not long after the Bears assumed ownership that Linda Bunch, manager and co-owner of the Van Norman and Friends Production Sale, first met Paula.

“When they first bought Capriola, Paula was just a little girl with long braids. She was always in the store — from the get-go,” said Bunch.

Bunch and Wright remained friends, and Bunch said Paula was “instrumental” in making the horse sale into a full weekend event.

“She never got very far away from her roots. She was very in tune with it and wanting to promote it, both for herself and for her family,” Bunch added.

J. M. Capriola Co. was founded in 1929 by Joe Capriola, the apprentice of world-renowned leather craftsman G.S. Garcia.

Garcia moved to Elko in 1896, and brought both his leather skills and love of rodeo to the town, starting a “Wild West Show” which eventually evolved into the Silver State Stampede.

Paula Wright has long honored the traditions of both the Capriola and Garcia brands, and participated in the planning of Elko’s centennial celebration of the Silver State Stampede.

“The ideas and the passion she has, it’s awesome — it’s just inspiring,” said chairman of the Centennial Committee Alan London.

“I have never met anybody that was so, so dedicated, who made such personal sacrifices to see an event be successful,” he added.

Wright spent long hours planning the event, London said, and commissioned a commemorative saddle to be made by J.M. Capriola Co.

“She was so community-minded. She knew what needed to be done to accomplish things,” said Groves.

The same passion and drive Wright exhibited with her business was also witnessed in her community involvement, and her love of people.

“The thing I liked about Paula was she was the same every time I saw her,” said Ronda Van Norman, co-owner of the Van Norman and Production Horse Sale. “She was friendly and helpful and very interested in how I was doing, and I know it wasn’t just me, she was like that with everybody.”

“Paula was a phenomenal woman. It seemed every week she would mentor Soroptimist women on something,” said Soroptimist International of Elko President Denise Callaway. “There was not a time when I saw her she didn’t give me a hug and whisper something funny in my ear.”

Being a member of Soroptimist was a family affair, as at the time Wright joined in the 1970s, her mother was club president.

“(Paula) was a great mentor,” said Stacey Sawyer with Soroptimist International of Elko. “She had a heart of gold. She’d do anything for you.”

Wright not only traveled across the globe for Soroptimist, but also for Capriola, as she focused on promoting her business into one with international recognition. The store’s customers hail not only from all over the United States, but also from Europe to Japan.

“She was really instrumental in putting Capriola on the map as being an elite western store,” said Bunch. “You’d see someone in Texas, and you’d say you were from Elko, and they’d say, ‘oh you know J.M. Capriola?’”

J.M. Capriola is expected to remain open today.

“It’s what Paula would have wanted,” said Groves.


Find Andrea Glover on Twitter at @agloverEDFP. You can also continue the discussion online at the Free Press’ Facebook page, and on Twitter at @ElkoDaily.