This is for my dear friend, Mary Jo Alley. We met after evening services at church one Sunday when she heard some of my friends giggling when I announced that I was pregnant at age 40. My sons were 17, 20 and 22 at that time. Her sister was also pregnant at 40 with 1 grown daughter so we struck up an immediate friendship. Her sister was living in the DC area so they didn't get together much. We started the shopping, gardening and all the usual friendship things.
I had my fourth son in February of 1976. She hosted one of my showers. She got Mike his first set of Lincoln Logs. She worked as an RN. Once when her car was on the fritz and her husband was driving her to work, she announced she had to stop by my house on the way. When he asked why, she explained that she had promised Mike a box of animal crackers. So he brought her by to deliver them. She and Mike made regular trips to the zoo, stopping at McDonald's on the way home.
I am thinking of the day she called to let me know she had signed us up to help clean the church building our congregation had bought. The jobs were I would help clean and she would watch Mike, who was a toddler at the time.
There was a lady in our church whose husband was dying of mesothelioma. Mary Jo called to ask me how I felt about raking leaves. When I told her I loved it and she said "Good! I told Lucille we would be over early tomorrow to rake hers and Carolyn (another church lady) will watch Mike for us."
When we moved to Houston, TX in 1982, we left in April and came back to settle on our house in May. Mary Jo and Don had just bought a fixer upper in the country. It had a gorgeous fireplace which needed some chimney type work. Mike wanted to see a fire in it. She told him that the first time he came to visit, she'd build him a fire and they would roast weenies.
When we came in May, it was hot as blazes. Mary Jo starts getting out fire wood and kindling. Don was talking to my husband and noticed the activity. He said "Mary Jo, what are you doing?" She replied that she had promised Mike a fire in the fire place. He responded that we possibly needed more AC so he got up and changed the setting. We sat there and roasted those weenies andwatched that fire and had one of the most enjoyable evenings ever.
She was always available to anyone who needed a helping hand or a good shoulder for crying. The last time I saw her as a healthy person we sat and drank coffee at Shoney's for over two hours and then went shopping. She shopped like I do, absolutely refused to pay full price for anything. She would have loved ThriftyFun. She was a great cook and had an amazing collection of recipes. She also collected crochet patterns.
I was (and still am) the person who cut corners and always wanted the easy, quick way to do something. She decided we needed to write a book, which we never got done. She reminded me several times "Marty, we need to get on our book."
Her husband, Don, whom I also loved, developed a heart condition, which was very serious. He only lived a few months. Mary Jo hovered over him day and night and took care of him. She had a problem which I later found out was cancer. She stayed right with Don and finally went for treatment after he passed away.
I chewed her out about it, saying "Mary Jo, you are a nurse! You had to know there was something vile in your body." She said "Marty, I couldn't leave Don with nobody to take care of him while I was piled up in the hospital." So this dear woman laid down her life for her husband and died in just a few months. I will never forget her and she can still provoke a giggle or a tear. I call her my third sister. She absolutely can never be replaced.
My mama used to tell me when I was a little kid that a person should leave tracks as they walk through life. Mary Jo left deep deep tracks on her way through the world.
Her life was not without difficulty. Her first husband abandoned her with 5 young children so she went to her mother's. She went to nursing school and took extra classes and training and worked as a psych nurse. She met and married Don with his 2 kids. They finished raising 7 kids together.
I hope I haven't rambled too much and I sincerely hope that all of you have at least one Mary Jo in your life.
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How beautiful. How blessed you are to have known such a genuine, caring lady. Not many people have a Mary Jo in their lives. Someone once told me that a person is lucky to have one friend in your whole life. I was a teenager when I heard this, so I didn't fully understand until I got older. She sounds lovely, as well as a kind and gentle spirit. I'm so sorry for your loss. What great memories and stories you have together! It's said that only time heals these kinds of wounds. May God bless you and comfort you on your journey.
I had a Mary Jo, too. Her name was Eleanor, and everyone called her Eli. Here is the story of this wonderful person.
For those of you who did not know her, or did not know of her, this is the story of my friend, elenore.
I met Elenore, who promptly became Eli to me, in 1973. I was living in San Diego, CA in a duplex with a big front yard. Eli lived in a duplex with a big back yard. Our properties were separated by the alley that ran down the middle, yet we never spoke the first 8 months I lived there.
While I had much to do running the duplex, managing my husbands other properties, and being just 18, I wanted some companionship when he was out to seawhich was 18 of the first 24 month we were together. So, I got a little beagle mix puppy and named him Sebastian. One of the residents didnt close the gate, and the little critter tried to follow me when I was pulling out, and I ran over him.
They say there are angels on earth, and I believe that now.
While in a heap of tears and dead puppy, I felt someone sit down on the driveway beside me and put her arms around both of us, rocking us gently and stroking our heads. I would have sworn she had four hands, as it seems she was just engulfing me and Bastian with comfort. She was telling us it would be ok, that he knew I didnt mean to, and that someday I would forgive myself.
She was right on all counts.
I didnt speak to anyone for days, so when I finally got around to thanking her, she opened her door and hugged me without giving me a chance to say more than hi I am the girl and that was the beginning of a friendship that spanned not only a 30 year gap in our ages, but one that lasted for a quarter of a century.
Now, as everyone knows, when you are 18 you think someone 48 is ancient!! I mean, she was older than my own mom! But we hit it off and I was over there just about every day for coffee. Although she had two daughters and two sons, I only got to meet her son David, who was a friend and confidant the whole two years we were neighbors. It has been an honor to know them both to this day.
Eli was a free spirit to be sure, but a good mom and a loyal friend. When I left San Diego for Oregon, we never lost touch. She married later in life to a wonderful man named Ed Heyward and although I was not able to attend their wedding, I have this photo I will cherish always.
Eli was a devoted wife to Ed for almost 25 years, till dementia took him in 1995. To the day she passed away, she kept his chair and the matching afghan I made him beside her. While they were together, they adopted Heidi, one of the coolest dogs ever. Heidi was a constant companion to Eli, eating fresh asparagus and canned beans with her food everyday. She had her spot on the couch, her own blanket on the bed, and was better than any alarm clock. I think she and my Cujo would have been buds. Eli loved her till she went to make a dry spot wet sometime in 2006.
Eli and Ed came to Coos Bay once to see us, when Bree was just about 4 years old. She loved the house and yard, but what she loved the most was the Botanical Gardens at Simpson Beach, and the color and size of our Rhodies. In California, they are only small and white, called Snowball. As most of you who live her or have visited, we have huge one of several wonderful colors, and she also loved the Forsythia and Tansy that grows along the freeways. She was like my mom in some ways and that they could both spit in sand and grow flowerswhile I cant keep any thing alive but moldhaha.
Over the years, esp when I lived in Tucson, I got to visit her in her home with Heidi and once with Ed. The last time was in 2003 when I spent 3 days there on my way to Salem for a summer visit. That visit was nice, as I got to see David again, who was married and a dad and hugely successful car dealership owner and too happy for anyones good. This shot means the world to me.
Eli had had a stroke in her early forties, so she didnt like her photo taken, but relented for me on special occasions. This was the last time I got to see her. We talked and wrote letters until her hands became too sore to write. That is when we kept in touch with phone callsalways me to her as she lived in a fixed income. I did not mind at all.
I spoke to Eli just before Christmas, and she was still living at home, something that was so very important to her. Her new doggie Sunshine had been with her for almost two years, and was her sleeping and San Diego Charger watching and shopping buddy. Her last years were in a wheelchair, and I made her a cool caddy that she could take her drink cups in and use for dinner, pills, water, etc. She was fiercely independent and her mind was sharp and clear till the end.
As bad luck would have it, I was too busy during the first of January to pay much attention to anything but work. She always told me that if I was going to send her something, to make sure it was consumable!! So, I sent her smoked salmon and soaps and teas and flavored coffees on the 11th of January. They arrived on the 14th, and sat outside her home on the stoop as she called it, where the mail carrier always left her packages. Her son found it the next day, when no one could get her on the phone.
She had been gone about a day, but in his shock, David sat on the bed telling her she needed to wake up and open my present
Over the next few days and weeks, they tried everything to get a hold of me. David knew he would eventually hear from me, but it took too long to need him.
I thought of her often, thinking I need to call Eli but then someone would need something or it would be too late to call for the day. I decided I would try on Mothers Day, and that is when her number was no longer in service. It took some time but I found David and called, hoping against hope that she just didnt have the money for her bill. Of course, that was a silly notion but you hope its something simple or you got the number wrong oranything.
David called me that night and told me what happened. He said it was very fast and she did not suffer. I am still crying some, but I had a feeling it would happen like this.
Elenore Heyward died pretty much like she wanted to. She was at home, in her bed with her dog and all the people who knew her were alive, happy and safe. She lived 84 years and when friends and family finally stopped piling into Davids house, he said there were at least 50 strong. Not a bad turn out I say.
After the way my mom died, and the way I felt cheated with her death and the timing, I am again hit with a mom who I didnt get to say goodbye to. I was too busy to make a simple phone call.
I just hope that what she said about the puppy applies to me, too.
It will be okshe did know I didnt mean itand I will eventually forgive myself.
What a beautiful tribute to a dear friend!
I would have loved to have known her.
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