Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Column: Rekindled friendships can satisfy the soul late in life

From 1949 to 1953, Maryrose Groce – an Anaconda, Mont., girl – ended up a young wife and mother living in Newark, Ohio. Her husband, Tom, worked for Kaiser Aluminum in its Ohio plant.

People didn’t travel as much back then, and one of the other Kaiser wives, when Groce told her she was from Montana, said: “Oh I’ve never been that far South.”

Maryrose and Tom didn’t have a lot of money, and life would have been fairly lonely so far from home and from people who knew where Montana was located. But they were delighted to find four other couples already in Newark, especially Jerry and Etta Murphy.

They had kids close in age. They all loved to play cards. They saved each other’s sanity.

When the Groces left Ohio in 1953, the couples exchanged Christmas cards for a few years and then lost contact, because the Murphys moved several times.

Groce lives in Spokane Valley now. Last spring, through a mutual friend, Groce was given Etta Murphy’s phone number.

She picked up the phone and talked to this long-lost friend. Recently, Murphy, who now lives outside Chicago, traveled to Spokane for a wedding.

The two women reunited. The years melted away. They reminisced. They laughed their hearts full, remembering.

They remembered that both couples were so homesick for Montana, especially during Ohio’s humid summers, that for vacation, they’d load up their cars (no air conditioning then) on a Friday at 5 p.m., drive all night and all day Saturday and Sunday and end up in Montana at midnight.

One time, the Groces were traveling West to start their vacation, and the Murphys were traveling East at the end of their vacation, and they just happened to pull into the same gas station in the middle of the United States.

In a person’s last decades of life, it takes effort to reconnect with the people who mattered so much in the younger years.

But Groce said it’s worth the effort.

“Try to contact old friends,” she said. “You are on this earth for such a short time.”

Both women are 91. Both now widows.

“When Tom died, I felt very lonely,” Groce said. “I thought: ‘Now am I going to be a couch potato or keep going?’ Tom would have said get off your duff and get moving.”

Groce kept moving and is in great health still, as is Murphy. But at the end of their reunion they said goodbye this way:

Groce: “I’m so glad we met again and enjoyed the hours we had. Our next meeting will be in heaven.”

Murphy: “I think you’re right.”

From HealthDay News: A Journal of the American Medical Association article recently recommended that doctors ask older patients two key questions to uncover signs of decline that often foreshadow steep declines, compromising their ability to live independently. The two questions:

• For health or physical reasons, do you have difficulty climbing up 10 steps or walking a quarter of a mile?

• Because of underlying health or physical reasons, have you modified the way you climb 10 steps or walk a quarter of a mile?

SPEAKING OF HEALTH: Where you live can greatly influence how healthy you are as you age, due to a complexity of factors. According to the Commonwealth Fund, a health policy think tank, a quarter of adults in West Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and Kentucky had lost six or more teeth due to decay or disease, compared to fewer than 10 percent in Connecticut, Hawaii and Utah.

GRANDPARENTING 2013: “Things have certainly changed from the times we boomers spent with our grandparents, when they mostly left us to our own devices. Oh, sure, we sat on the front-porch swing with Grandpa reading ‘Beetle Bailey’ and ‘Little Lulu’ in the Sunday comics or searching the sky for shooting stars. And Grandma got us all together for three square meals a day.

“But our grandparents didn’t feel they had to entertain us every minute. They just went about their business and we modified our routine to fit with theirs.” – Diana J. Ewing in “The Baby Boomers’ Guide to Grandparenting.”


• “An Evening with Mark Twain and Abraham Lincoln” – live performance by Dave Ehlert from Branson, Mo., tonight, 7 p.m., Post Falls Library, 812 N. Spokane St., (208) 773-1506.

• Painting with Oils – begins Tuesday, 6:30 p.m., Corbin Art Center, 507 W. Seventh Ave., Spokane, (509) 625-6200.

• “Everest: A Journey of Commitment” – talk by Kay LeClaire who in 2009 became the oldest woman in the world to successfully reach the highest peaks of each of the seven continents, Wednesday, 7 p.m., REI, 1125 N. Monroe St., Spokane, (509) 328-9900.

For more local events, go to