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Saturday, November 21, 2009


Mary Lee Coombs and me, by Larry Claypool

None of you folks will know me but I am an old boyfriend of Mary Lee's from way back in her distant past circa 1972.It is just by accident I have wound up here or perhaps it is no accident at all. To tell ya truth it's kind of strange but I think our beautiful friend Mary Lee has reached out all these years later to let me know of her passing.

I just happened to recently join a Facebook group called Rochdalians and purely by accident and a few days past happened to notice an entry by Janice Beecher and as I read through her post she just happened to mention Mary Lee's name. Reconnection!!! To a girl I have thought often of over the years-one of the "what ifs" left unresolved in my life. I will explain that in a moment but I ask you folks what are the odds of one randomly stumbling across someones name, a person you knew 40 years ago,on the Internet, with it's billions of daily posts--the odds must surely be astronomical.

Needless to say, I was thrilled to hear of Mary Lee and resolved to immediately try and reach out and get in contact with her through Ms Beecher. That takes me to the "what if" in my life concerning Mary Lee Coombs.

Mary Lee and I had met in Rochdale. I don't think she ever actually lived there but was a regular visitor-time has dulled my memory on that. Anyway, I don't really remember how we actually met but it was probably through my job working as a member of the Rochdale Security Force. Probably it was through one of my Ohio friends who served on the Force with me as I understand from Miss Beecher that she'd had an unhappy relationship with one of my fellow guards, so, perhaps, that is how we met. Our affair was brief-as I remember it only lasted 2-3 months-but during that time I developed some pretty serious feelings with our Mary Lee. I don't think it ever got to the point that we spoke of a serious commitment toward each other, or perhaps it did, and I just don't remember. But the feelings were there, and I think they were reciprocal, on both our parts. But- as sometimes happens in life we don't see the forest for the trees. Another girl entered the picture, and like Mary Lee, she was young and beautiful and had a nice wiggle. Being young and dumb, etc-etc., the libido outsmarted the brain. I took up with the new girl who was a jazz/R&B singer-I was juggling how to handle both relationships and all that when I sought out some advice from a old lady artist friend of mine who knew both girls pretty well.-Leastwise I thought that old lady was a friend of mine at the time. She advised me to go with the singer. So thats what I did, I went for the young beautiful singer with a great voice instead of the young beautiful girl with a good head on her shoulders. A year or so a year later-I later married that singer. As for the old lady who I had sought out for advice -well-it may have been through her that Mary Lee not long after got into the all the trouble she did. I don't know that for sure but that has always been my thought. I ended the friendship when I heard about Mary Lee's predicament and when the old lady started trying to interfere too much in my marriage. In retrospect, perhaps she was not such a nice old lady after all.

It was a so-so marriage that lasted about 9 years before we divorced. I say so-so because there was good times-I loved my wife for the 1st five or six years, but, the last few were not so good. I guess thats how it goes in a lot of marriages that just don't work out. So-so is my opinion all these years later. I have been a single guy since 1982.

I didn't see Mary Lee much after that we broke up though when I did it was always friendly and there was still always a little something that would cross over between our eyes. I don't think our parting was a big thing for her -we all made and broke relationships a lot back in our youthful days. Then sometime in I think it was 1973 or 74 I heard Mary Lee had got into some serious problems. I think I may have seen her once or twice a year or two later. Not really exactly sure on that memory either, but however it was, I definely never saw Mary Lee Coombs again after 1975.

But I have thought of her often over the last 35 years. Most it was whimsical sweet little moments that I would think back to her and the days of my youth when I lived my Toronto years. I stayed single and never married again after the one marriage.

So here I have a little confession to make-I've been a serious skirt-chaser all my life. Oh-I was faithful in the my marriage because I believe in that sorta thing if I am in a relationship,but in my unmarried years which is most of my life- I have been just plain bad when it came to women. Or, then again, maybe, like myself, one just gets philosophical about one's life, and just chalks it up to never having found what one looking for. My search took me to 75 countries and 60 years of various "flings" but I never did find what I was looking for in my life as far as a woman goes. Or, perhaps, just perhaps, maybe once I did and I just wasn't smart enough to know it. That takes me back to Mary Lee Coombs again.

That's how she became a "what if" in my life. Outside of my 9 year relationship with my wife, perhaps no other relationship(and there's been a few over the years) ever had the kind of impact that my getting to know Mary Lee did. I guess that sounds kinda funny coming from a guy who only knew her for 2-3years and only had a brief 3 month relationship with her once upon a time. But it's true. There is, always has been, and always will be, a very special place for Mary Lee Coombs in my head, and in my heart-and that will last till the end of my days here. I always wondered what happened to Mary Lee after Rochdale closed-I even made some inquiries when I moved back to Toronto for a couple years in 81-82 but nobody I knew had heard anything about her afterwards and I never found her name in the phone book so 1974-75 was last I had news of her till I came across Janice Beecher's entry of her name on Facebook earliar this week.

As I said at the beginning, I was elated to see that name and immediately sent off a message via Facebook to Ms. Beecher asking about Mary Lee and how one might contact her.

It was kinda cool because I was expecting to reach out and surprise Mary Lee after all these years, and to finding out what my old friend and ex-lover had been doing all the rest of her the years of her life. I was expecting to find out good things, happy things-that she had or was married, had kids, and grandkids and had been through a husband or two-you know the usual sort of things that you would expect to hear after 35 years had passed. I was more than a little curious too because as I said Mary Lee has been always "special" to me in my memories of her. So it was, I was expecting to hear some good news back from Ms. Beecher and was anticipating a pleasant reunion at least through a telephone conversation.

Then I heard back, and the news was terrible. Mary Lee Coombs had passed away 3 years ago in Toronto in 2006. I will never see, or meet again, that beautiful and intelligent woman that I had known back when we were both so young. It has been a bit of a shock-I guess I am still trying to digest the fact-perhaps, that is why I am sitting here writing this out to to rest of you folks who knew her so much better and for so much longer than I in all those those years of her life that I have missed. Maybe it's some kind of therapy to help me absorb the loss I truly feel. I don't know. Or, maybe, I just want to let the rest of you know, that there is at least one more of Mary Lee's friends out here who care that she is gone and feel the deep emptiness in the heart because of her passing.

And to Mary Lee Coombs, wherever your Spirit now dwells, my dear, I wish you peace and happiness. I know you will know how I feel which is why I guess you have reached out through Janice and the Internet to let me know. I do have one complaint though, girl, I just wish you had been a little more prompt than this-I would have liked to have seen you once more in this life rather than wait till the next.

If the old religous adage about you reincarnate with the same people is true I hope our paths will cross again in the Cosmic scheme of Lord Shiva's Dance. Till then you remain in my minds eye and in my heart-the beautiful young girl with the brillant warm smile, the svelte body, and the finely tuned mind, I got to know for far too short a time in my life. You will remain the "what if" in my life forever. Peace be unto you my sister, my lover, and my friend.

For the those who read this, and for those of you who cared about and for Mary Lee in her life -and in her death, I want to thank you. I read through all your comments and have looked at the photos you posted on Flikr and you have helped me see and understand a little of what Mary Lee did with her life after I knew her. I am deeply apreciative of that.

I hope most of her life was happy and well spent -she was a great girl. I see from her friends that you all thought so too-so good on ya all.

If any of you have additional photos of Mary Lee that you might want to share other the ones you have posted on Flikr I would love to see them. I am a photographer by profession so I can look at the an ordinary photograph, and perhaps, see a bit more than the average person can. And if any of you would care to contact me and tell me more the life and times of Mary Lee, you will find in me a rapt audience. She was someone "Special" for us all. Again -thank you everyone.

PS-if you do wish to contact me you can use my email or contact me through Facebook using my name or email account. Just send me a message through Facebook that you are a friend of Mary Lee's and I will authorize you.

My name is Larry Claypool and my email is Blackeagle@shaw.ca in Vancouver.

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