Saturday, November 17, 2012

Celebrating Mary Bolton

We gathered at the West Hills Unification Church today, in celebration of Mary Bolton.  Carol and I represented the Urner family.

Chuck and Mary first met my dad, Jack, at the University of Chicago and were struck by his quiet manner and good looks.  Chuck, also getting his PhD at the time, had accepted a teaching job at the University of Colorado, and Mary decided to team up with him, as his wife, rather than pursue her Masters in race relations, the passion which got her there.

Mary's dad was a Rosecrucian and egalitarian, and role modeled feeding the hungry, mostly hobos passing through Yakima, Washington on trains in those days.  Mary grew up in Yakima, before moving to the big city of Seattle.

Later, when Mary was working on race relations in Davis, California where Chuck was teaching (Davis had only one black family at the time) she struck up a correspondence with my mother in Portland, where Jack and Carol had moved after Chicago.

Carol was involved with Womens International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) whereas dad was a city planner for the city.  When Mary and Dr. Bolton moved to Portland, they were surprised to find Carol's husband was that same Jack Urner who'd impressed them at the university.

When my parents packed up their worldly goods in Bangladesh, many decades later, and began touring in the US, I accompanied them, from Dhaka to Portland.  I'd been kicking around on the east coast since Princeton, but on returning to Portland in 1985, I decided this was where I wanted to be and the Boltons graciously allowed me to move into their basement, where I stayed for some months.

I eventually found work and moved to Hollywood, one of our neighborhoods, to live with Janet and Greg and their boy Ethan, and later joined by their daughter Rachael.

From then on I was included in many Bolton family events and rituals, such as the annual WILPF Christmas party and the annual Easter egg hunt.  My wife Dawn became a part of this family as well, as well as Alexia and Tara.

Mary and Chuck had invested in some land on the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge, opposite Hood River, and built a humble yet comfortable two-story "cabin" there.  Dawn and I went there on our honeymoon, and Tara was born nine months later.

In a subsequent chapter, I helped them find a buyer for this cabin and property using my Internet skills, though without doing the work of an actual real estate agent (Chuck did the actual paper work, for sale by owner).

My early awareness of this family, long before the Portland basement chapter, goes back to Italy.  Dr. Bolton took a sabbatical from Portland State in the coastal town of Positano.  We visited them and they visited us in Rome.  This was the 1960s.

Their girls were still very young then, as was I and my sister.  Gael, Sue and Jeanni were and are my generational contemporaries.  We have had children of our own.  Some of our children have had children.  Great grand kids were present at the service.

Chuck later visited us in Bhutan, which Mary eschewed because of altitude sickness.

The church was packed with folks.  I sat next to Tom Gihring, husband of Celene.  I was pleased to meet their two boys again, now both fully grown adults.  Maureen was there as well, with her adult sons.

Mary had a lot of fans and well wishers.  Hello to dear Eileen, Vivian, Sonya and many others.