I've never had another friend in my life like Mary. We were best friends from 8th grade on. After graduation, life took us each down a separate path. She went to Syracuse University and studied drama, I stayed in the burg for a while, then moved out to Phoenix, Arizona in 1987. A year and a half later, God brought us back into each others lives at the 20th reunion of the JHHS Class of '69. I went up to her the evening before the reunion at the JHHS Alumni get-together and it was as if we'd never lost those 20 years. We caught up and two months later when I was in NYC for business, I spent my free evenings with Mary as she showed me around HER NYC. She told me about the jobs she held to support herself. I bet most of you don't know that for some time she worked for the Kennedy family, yep, she met Jackie, Bobby, Teddy, and the rest. She was married to a hairdresser, who for some time has been exclusive to celebrities. And she had a part in an off Broadway play, as well as sang backup for a local group in NYC and made an album with them. Mary lived her dream, she lived her life on her terms and had two beautiful children, who now miss her, as do those of us who reconnected with her in the past few years.
The responsibilities of my job and Mary moving back to the burg took a few more years from us, but I called her one evening when I was home to visit my family in 2003, and from that day until December 28th, 2004, Mary and I talked on the phone daily. We shared the dreams we still had, we shared memories of JHHS, we shared the hurt and pain of life, and we shared the precious moments that she had. When I called her again in June 2003, Mary was in treatment for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL), in October she was in remission, and we were both very joyful and thankful for that. In just a short year, she was out of remission, the doctors didn't know why. Even though she was breathless many times each day, she spent time with her children, she continued to teach them what she had been taught at home and in school. And we made plans to attend our 35th reunion together.
Mary was not able to attend our last reunion due to her health, but she was there with several of us throughout the evening. Sunday after the reunion, I was able to see her, with another close friend, for a few hours and take the reunion to her. That evening she showed us parts of a video of her performance in "Man of La Mancha", in Harrisburg. I saw for the last time the talent she had, the life she brought to the parts she played on the stage. I remembered her in "Flower Drum Song" in ' 67 and in "Oliver" in '68. What I didn't know was that would be the last time I'd see her and really be able to talk to her.
I miss Mary very much, I miss her smile. If you don't remember it, just look at the pictures of her in our yearbook. I was very blessed to see her four times in 2004 before she moved on to her peace.
Debbie (Hall) Palmer