Oakdales Wayne Albright, popular in Central Valley midget car racing circles, died Wednesday in New Mexico after several weeks battling the flu.
Albright, 56, was hospitalized on the way home from a trip to the mid-January Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa, Okla. Lymphoma had weakened his immune system before he contracted H1N1 influenza, the primary cause for this years severe flu season, which has caused at least 13 deaths in Stanislaus County.
At least 243 flu-related deaths have been confirmed throughout California this season, compared with 26 at this time last year and 106 for last years entire flu season, the state Department of Public Health said Friday. Forty-one more cases remain under investigation.
San Joaquin County has suffered six influenza deaths, and Merced and Tuolumne have had four and one, respectively.
Like Albright, most victims younger than 65 were already weakened by other medical problems, and four of the 243 were babies or small children. Pregnant women also are vulnerable.
Albright had intended to get a flu shot offered at work but got off late that day and missed his chance, said his wife, Judi.
For the trip, Wayne Albright had taken a week of vacation from his job of 20 years as a diesel mechanic for A.L. Gilbert Co. Judi Albright traveled to New Mexico when he was hospitalized, but he never emerged from a coma.
I did speak to him and I know he heard me, she said.
His full name was Edward Wayne Albright, but he went by his middle name to avoid confusion with his father. He was well-known at midget car raceways throughout the Valley, where his cars were driven by his son, Dakota.
Other survivors include his sister, Donna Pierson of Oakdale; brother, Benny Albright of Missouri; and stepsons, Jon Aguiar of Pioneer and David Aguiar of Oakdale.
A funeral is planned for 10 a.m. Feb. 22 at the Oakdale-Riverbank Memorial Chapel, 830 W. F St., Oakdale, followed by burial at Oakdale Citizens Cemetery.
Contributions can be sent to the Wayne Albright Fund at Bank of the West, 134 S. Maag Ave., Oakdale 95361 or by entering his name in the search field at www.healthdonor.com.
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2390.