Monday, March 17, 2008

Rest easy, Pearlie

I found out over the weekend that Lena Morgan, known as Pearlie by the kids who loved her, passed away on Friday. Ninety years old, and when my family and I visited her last summer,
she was as spry as I remembered her.
I met Pearl in the late summer of '81.
It was a week or so before the school year at the Joe Kubert school of Cartoon and Graphic Art started.
I left Minnesota to go to New Jersey as if I was a wanted man. I was so excited. I was going to learn cartooning from my heroes, like Joe Kubert.
Absolutely no planning went into where I was going to stay. I had a few thousand on me from my summer jobs, and stayed in a motel in Dover, NJ, for two days.
Then I walked to the Kubert school. Muriel, Joe's wife, let me stay in the student housing til I found something, but the clock was ticking and she made it clear that I had to make my stay there as short as possible.
I called the list of available rooms to rent that she had given me, but everything was already rented.
Panic still hadn't set in yet. I called the last number, and Pearlie's son answered. I asked him about the room, and he said his mom only rented to girls.
You could have cut the silence with a knife. The next thing I knew, Kenny said.."hold on. I'll let you talk to my mom."
The voice on the other end had a sweet southern drawl, and she was as kind as could be, but she said that she only rented to girls.
I think I babbled something to her, sounding pathetic, and she said to come by the house and she would meet me.
It was night time, a Thursday I think, and I walked to her house. You have to remember that I didn't have a car, and I walked everywhere in NJ.
Anyhow, I met Pearlie and her son, Kenny, and the next thing I knew I was living at 142 Prospect Street, Dover NJ 07801.
( Don't send a card, there. We all had to move out at the end of the summer in '85.)
I worked to pay my way through school, and my rent was $35 a week , and she NEVER raised it even though she could have used the money.
She fed me and took care of me and like any stray I loved her with all my heart.
I would be up late, after coming home from work, eating something quick so I could start on my assignments, and Pearl would come home from bowling and tell me about her day over a cup of tea.
The girls, Linda, Mary Beth, and Ruth and I had a lot of great times with Pearlie under that roof.
( She had also rented to other guys, like my room mates, Mark and Ben. I think I softened her up).
By her count she had taken care of 37 or 39 kids.
One of the best times we had was when I wore a lobster costume one Christmas to pass out gifts.
Another was when we almost peed ourselves when her brother's wife put on a fashion show, dressing her poodle in these crazy outfits. God did we laugh!
Through thick and thin, Pearlie was the kind of woman who would speak her mind and stand up for what's right.
She was a wonderful woman and I feel truly blessed to have known her.
People like Pearlie don't have statues dedicated to them, but monuments are made in her image in each heart of those whose lives were touched by her.
Your work is done, Pearlie. Rest easy.