One week ago today, my friend Mary Planten passed away. I was blessed to have interviewed Mary in January of this year; the story appeared in the February issue of Main Street Magazine. Despite the fact that she was an amazing 108 years old, I would never have realized that our nearly hour-long chat that one afternoon would turn out to be Mary's last interview - and the last time she and I would see each other.
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With 108 years' worth of experience under her belt, Mary Planten's was a life well lived - and she was equally well loved by all those who came to know her throughout the years. When I spoke with the social worker at the Holland Christian Home prior to interviewing Mary back in January, I was told of a Record staff writer who had interviewed Mary several times over the years, and who, when hearing that I wanted to share Mary's story with the readers of Main Street Magazine, had kindly stepped back and given me this very chance. I was touched by his gesture.
As I'm sure Jay Levin quickly discovered during his first meeting with Mary, I was amazed to find that "Ma P." had not just one, but many wonderful stories to tell. From cruises around the world to attending the 1965 World's Fair (where she was matched with the Australian pen pal she eventually met years later), Mary had so many amazing things to share that when she suddenly paused near the end of our conversation and said, "I must be boring you, I'm talking so much!" I was dumbstruck. I told her I could listen for hours. And I wasn't lying one bit!
I was surprised not to find an obituary in the newspaper in the days that followed her passing a week ago on April 6. But this morning, when I picked up the Sunday edition of The Record I found something better - a lovely tribute to Mary's life written by Jay Levin. After I read the article - which was featured on the front page of the Local section and continued onto another page inside - I wrote Jay an e-mail explaining who I was, and not only did I compliment him on his wonderful article but I also thanked him for allowing me to share in what was essentially Mary's last interview. Both he and I were very blessed to get to hear Mary's stories and have the chance to share them with our readers.
Read Jay Levin's touching article by clicking here.
Now Mary is in heaven, finally reunited with her husband, Frank, and their children who left this earth so many years ago. And for all of us who were blessed enough to get to know "Ma P.," we will remember her stories, her wit, and her smile for the rest of our lives.
In Memory of Mary Planten