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February 8, 2002

You may be looking for something to relieve the stress and strain of these past few days. Electricity, the lack of it, has been a problem and it continues to be just that for so many in this part of the U.S. All the woes are not yet over, so spend a moment or two with me as we delve into an unrelated subject that has no connection to the vicious “ice tornado,” as our daughter, Susan, calls it.

Many of you will remember Margaret Plumer, a daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. L.E. Plumer. She grew up here and was vice president of my graduating class at Perry high school in 1941. She was one of the most popular girls in school at that time, admired and respected by boys and girls alike. Margaret married a handsome Oregon man, Bill Black, and they have made their home in Salem, Oregon, for many years. Several months ago Margaret was diagnosed with cancer, and on January 31 she lost a valiant fight to that insidious foe. Many prayers were offered by friends on her behalf but now she is beyond all of that earthly suffering. I have not seen her since our class celebrated our 50th anniversary in 1991, but we have kept in touch via e-mail.

There’s a slightly strange story concerning Margaret that I have told many times. It has to do with coincidences. When I was in the Army in 1943, I was sent to a wonderful little Catholic school, St. Bonaventure University, in Olean, New York, for training with the Army Specialized Training Program. The first night there, I was having a sandwich in the school cafeteria when another GI sat down across from me. He was a total stranger, but after a few minutes he asked if I was from Perry, Oklahoma. The question surprised me, but of course I proudly said yes, and he then explained the inquiry. His name was Tenal Cooley, from Bartlesville, OK, and he had been a student at Oklahoma A.& M. College before the war. While there he met a comely young co-ed named Margaret Plumer, from Perry, and they became friends. He remembered what her PHS class ring looked like, and he had observed that I had one like it, and that led to his opening question.

Tenal and I became good friends while we were at St. Bonaventure. He was later with an Army unit in Europe and lost a leg in combat. When the war was over, we both came back to Oklahoma. Tenal joined the personnel department of The Daily Oklahoman and began climbing the corporate ladder. I rejoined the news staff of this newspaper. Tenal also became a good friend of Francis Thetford, my former boss here at The Journal, who by that time had become a columnist with The Oklahoman. Several years later I learned that Dave and Thelma Muir, who moved to Perry after retiring from business in Oklahoma City, were neighbors of Tenal and the next time I saw him was at a gathering in the Muir home. There’s no point to this story except that it serves as another illustration of what a small world we live in, indeed. But it also helps me remember three people, Margaret Plumer, Francis Thetford and Tenal Cooley, who were very special to me in different ways but who are now gone to their reward. I’ll miss them, but I’ll never forget them.