I lost my other Margy last week.
When I moved back to Kingsport in 2002 to take care of my mother, Margie Staten, I reconnected with my old friend Margy Clark, who had been a treasured colleague during my first stint at the Kingsport Times News in the mid-seventies.
Margy – different spelling from my mother – was recently widowed and we became running mates, again.
We would have dinner together once a week, always at a different spot. We talked about putting together a book of restaurant reviews of Tri-Cities restaurants but in the end we decided we would rather enjoy our meals than critique them.
We continued that dining habit, generally once a week, for 18 years, until the pandemic.
We would talk old times, kids’ accomplishments, doings in Kingsport. We even watched the 2004 election returns on the big screen over dinner at Damon’s. We were the only ones there for the election.
I would pass on my New Yorkers to her and she would reciprocate with a stack of clippings from the New York Times and the Christian Science Monitor. Margy was a constant reader and an inveterate newspaper clipper and when our regular dining crowd expanded over the years, she would parcel out clippings to each: car stories for Dick, fashion for Jo, potential column material for me.
If I had been paying attention, I might have noticed: the best column material was sitting right next to me, Margy.
When Margy turned 90 a couple of years ago, her two daughters put together an informal birthday party at one of our favorite dining spots, Rush Street.
As things wound down, a few folks felt obliged to offer up celebratory testimonials.
When it came my turn, I was ready. It was a line I had been saving, in the unfortunate event that I would ever have to write Margy’s eulogy in my column:
“When I grow up, I want to be just like Margy Clark,” I said.
Everyone laughed. But everyone knew exactly what I meant.
Margy Clark didn’t just live life she savored it. She filled every minute.
When the Friends of the Library needed help sorting books for the annual Book Sale, Margy was there.
When public radio station WETS needed help manning – and womaning – the phones during pledge drives, Margy was there.
When the Carousel needed volunteers in the gift shop, Margy was there. Many a week she would have to cut short our regular lunch gathering to head over to the Carousel. She was still doing this at age 90.
In fact she was still doing pretty much everything at age 90 that she had been doing fifty years earlier when I first met her.
She was still driving to Abingdon to patronize Barter Theater until the pandemic hit – she was a season ticket holder, at 90!
And why not? In her early years in Kingsport, she was a playwright. Two of her efforts, musical farces written with her friend Joan Hensley, were produced at the Olde West Dinner Theatre in 1966.
Both were well-received by the Times-News critic Basil Rice who called “Patience, Patience, Virtue Will Prevail or Purity Won’t Get You Very Far These Days” a “howl” (His only complaint was that the title was too long for his typing-weary fingers.)
Margy was in the Junior League, the American Association of University Women, the Kingsport Theater Guild,
She was in a bridge club and a book club and another book club and a tennis league.
And for almost twenty years she wrote for the Kingsport Times News, beginning in 1966 as an arts reporter. By the time she left the newspaper, so she and husband Dick could travel more, she was a features reporter and star columnist in the Weekender magazine. Her column The Innocent Bystander was a two-time winner of Best Humor Column in a statewide newspaper contest.
Typical of her modesty she didn’t know what had become of the plaques.
I’m sure she belonged to more groups and won more awards and received more honors. But she never talked about that. She did speak with pride a year ago when her younger daughter Martha Kalin won the Terry J. Cox Poetry Award, which included a contract to have her poetry collection published by Regal House Publishing. Margy made sure I got a copy of the book when it was published last fall.
Even during the pandemic Margy and I would have a lunch-length conversation over the phone every week.
I talked to her the week before she went into the hospital for the last time. I tried to reach her after she went in but Margy had been born under a bad cellphone star. She never seemed to get hers to working, after 15 years of owning one.
It is sad to lose someone who had become such an important part of my new life back in my old hometown.
But Margy left with no regrets.
She had packed more into 92 years than most 184-year-olds.