Goodbye, Mary

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

Last week, Waterdown lost Mary.

Most of us, here at the Review, knew her just by her first name and we were surprised and saddened to hear of her death.

Although I don't like referring to a person as a fixture, somehow the word just naturally springs to mind when I think of Mary. She was always here. Seldom a day would go by that she didn't appear either at our reception desk or on the bench across from Ray's Variety. I often spotted her smoking a cigarette on the patio of Jitterbug Java Caf or walking across the post office parking lot, sometimes aimlessly it seemed.

Mary was a panhandler. She had been for 53 years. She often asked passers-by and local business folk if they could spare a loonie, toonie or five dollars. Sometimes she paid it back and sometimes she didn't.

I freely admit that I often took a quick look out the window before making a mad dash to my car in hopes that Mary wouldn't catch me and ask for another handout.

Sometimes the panhandling got to be a bit of an irritant and Jill Hogeweg, the administrator at Grindstone Creek Manor retirement home, where Mary lived for the past 15 years, can relate several stories about people who complained to her about it. But looking beyond that, most people accepted Mary for who she was - a bit of a lost soul, but canny enough to know the value of a dollar.

I never knew Mary's surname until this week. It was Fitzpatrick and she lived at lodging homes for much of her life. Mary had psychiatric problems and suffered a nervous breakdown when she was 19. After that, she began panhandling, almost as a way of coping with her emotional problems.

In a way, she saw panhandling as her job. It was what she did on a daily basis. It was probably her reason for getting up in the morning, getting dressed and walking the few blocks from Grindstone Creek Manor to Main Street North.

Mary was also a bit of an enigma and that's exactly what made her an interesting, if not eccentric, person. She cared for people and liked the company of others. Perhaps panhandling was her way of interacting with people.

She had good friends at the Manor. In fact, a close friend at the retirement home died just hours after Mary's death. Mary had been fighting pneumonia for more than a week but she lost her battle last Tuesday at 4 a.m.

A joint service was held Saturday for Mary and her friend. Family and friends came to bid a final farewell. The Review was represented by Dianne Kersten, who visited the Kitching Steepe & Ludwig Funeral Home to express condolences. She also got a chance to speak with Mary's sister, who lives in the area.

Also attending the service was Rob Levesque, owner of Ray's Variety, and his young son, Paul. "She was a part of Waterdown and we miss her," Rob said.

Rob's wife, who often mans the convenience store, remembers Mary as a regular customer, coming in almost every day to buy cigarettes and pop. "Everybody had a story about Mary," she said.

Hogeweg said she would like to thank the community for "indulging Mary." Panhandling was her life, she said, and for the most part, it was a harmless pastime that most who knew Mary tolerated with good grace.

Although it may sound hackneyed, Mary, I believe, has gone to a better place. And I have this vision that I cannot quite dismiss, of Mary walking through St. Peter's gate with a smile on her face and a fresh loonie in her hand.

Goodbye, Mary

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

Last week, Waterdown lost Mary.

Most of us, here at the Review, knew her just by her first name and we were surprised and saddened to hear of her death.

Although I don't like referring to a person as a fixture, somehow the word just naturally springs to mind when I think of Mary. She was always here. Seldom a day would go by that she didn't appear either at our reception desk or on the bench across from Ray's Variety. I often spotted her smoking a cigarette on the patio of Jitterbug Java Caf or walking across the post office parking lot, sometimes aimlessly it seemed.

Mary was a panhandler. She had been for 53 years. She often asked passers-by and local business folk if they could spare a loonie, toonie or five dollars. Sometimes she paid it back and sometimes she didn't.

I freely admit that I often took a quick look out the window before making a mad dash to my car in hopes that Mary wouldn't catch me and ask for another handout.

Sometimes the panhandling got to be a bit of an irritant and Jill Hogeweg, the administrator at Grindstone Creek Manor retirement home, where Mary lived for the past 15 years, can relate several stories about people who complained to her about it. But looking beyond that, most people accepted Mary for who she was - a bit of a lost soul, but canny enough to know the value of a dollar.

I never knew Mary's surname until this week. It was Fitzpatrick and she lived at lodging homes for much of her life. Mary had psychiatric problems and suffered a nervous breakdown when she was 19. After that, she began panhandling, almost as a way of coping with her emotional problems.

In a way, she saw panhandling as her job. It was what she did on a daily basis. It was probably her reason for getting up in the morning, getting dressed and walking the few blocks from Grindstone Creek Manor to Main Street North.

Mary was also a bit of an enigma and that's exactly what made her an interesting, if not eccentric, person. She cared for people and liked the company of others. Perhaps panhandling was her way of interacting with people.

She had good friends at the Manor. In fact, a close friend at the retirement home died just hours after Mary's death. Mary had been fighting pneumonia for more than a week but she lost her battle last Tuesday at 4 a.m.

A joint service was held Saturday for Mary and her friend. Family and friends came to bid a final farewell. The Review was represented by Dianne Kersten, who visited the Kitching Steepe & Ludwig Funeral Home to express condolences. She also got a chance to speak with Mary's sister, who lives in the area.

Also attending the service was Rob Levesque, owner of Ray's Variety, and his young son, Paul. "She was a part of Waterdown and we miss her," Rob said.

Rob's wife, who often mans the convenience store, remembers Mary as a regular customer, coming in almost every day to buy cigarettes and pop. "Everybody had a story about Mary," she said.

Hogeweg said she would like to thank the community for "indulging Mary." Panhandling was her life, she said, and for the most part, it was a harmless pastime that most who knew Mary tolerated with good grace.

Although it may sound hackneyed, Mary, I believe, has gone to a better place. And I have this vision that I cannot quite dismiss, of Mary walking through St. Peter's gate with a smile on her face and a fresh loonie in her hand.

Goodbye, Mary

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

Last week, Waterdown lost Mary.

Most of us, here at the Review, knew her just by her first name and we were surprised and saddened to hear of her death.

Although I don't like referring to a person as a fixture, somehow the word just naturally springs to mind when I think of Mary. She was always here. Seldom a day would go by that she didn't appear either at our reception desk or on the bench across from Ray's Variety. I often spotted her smoking a cigarette on the patio of Jitterbug Java Caf or walking across the post office parking lot, sometimes aimlessly it seemed.

Mary was a panhandler. She had been for 53 years. She often asked passers-by and local business folk if they could spare a loonie, toonie or five dollars. Sometimes she paid it back and sometimes she didn't.

I freely admit that I often took a quick look out the window before making a mad dash to my car in hopes that Mary wouldn't catch me and ask for another handout.

Sometimes the panhandling got to be a bit of an irritant and Jill Hogeweg, the administrator at Grindstone Creek Manor retirement home, where Mary lived for the past 15 years, can relate several stories about people who complained to her about it. But looking beyond that, most people accepted Mary for who she was - a bit of a lost soul, but canny enough to know the value of a dollar.

I never knew Mary's surname until this week. It was Fitzpatrick and she lived at lodging homes for much of her life. Mary had psychiatric problems and suffered a nervous breakdown when she was 19. After that, she began panhandling, almost as a way of coping with her emotional problems.

In a way, she saw panhandling as her job. It was what she did on a daily basis. It was probably her reason for getting up in the morning, getting dressed and walking the few blocks from Grindstone Creek Manor to Main Street North.

Mary was also a bit of an enigma and that's exactly what made her an interesting, if not eccentric, person. She cared for people and liked the company of others. Perhaps panhandling was her way of interacting with people.

She had good friends at the Manor. In fact, a close friend at the retirement home died just hours after Mary's death. Mary had been fighting pneumonia for more than a week but she lost her battle last Tuesday at 4 a.m.

A joint service was held Saturday for Mary and her friend. Family and friends came to bid a final farewell. The Review was represented by Dianne Kersten, who visited the Kitching Steepe & Ludwig Funeral Home to express condolences. She also got a chance to speak with Mary's sister, who lives in the area.

Also attending the service was Rob Levesque, owner of Ray's Variety, and his young son, Paul. "She was a part of Waterdown and we miss her," Rob said.

Rob's wife, who often mans the convenience store, remembers Mary as a regular customer, coming in almost every day to buy cigarettes and pop. "Everybody had a story about Mary," she said.

Hogeweg said she would like to thank the community for "indulging Mary." Panhandling was her life, she said, and for the most part, it was a harmless pastime that most who knew Mary tolerated with good grace.

Although it may sound hackneyed, Mary, I believe, has gone to a better place. And I have this vision that I cannot quite dismiss, of Mary walking through St. Peter's gate with a smile on her face and a fresh loonie in her hand.