THE VERDICT:It's hard to say goodbye

February 09, 2007|By ROBERT GARDNER

It was her legs. I happened to walk by and practically did a double take. "Dig those crazy gams," I thought, or the 1941 version of that.

The rest of the package was just as great, so I managed to get myself introduced and found out that her name was Katy Harris and she worked at Douglas Aircraft Co.

Lucky me! One of my best friends, Charlie Oxarart, worked at Douglas, and I decided to visit him at work the next day.


As I was being escorted to his office, we passed through a huge room full of rows of women typing. Each desk was lined up precisely behind the desk in front and parallel with the desk in the next row — except for one. This lone desk was turned so the typist faced the wall.

Noticing my perplexed look, my escort explained: "That's Katy Harris, and if we turn her desk around, everyone stops to talk to her and nothing gets done. This is the only way we can keep productivity up."

Katy's popularity was not limited to her fellow workers at Douglas. I managed to get a date with her, but I had to wait two weeks for her first free night and another two weeks for the second date.

In spite of all the competition, I somehow persuaded her of my good qualities and we were married Feb. 14, 1942. For most of the world, this would have simplified married life — Valentine's Day and anniversary. Somehow, I never could keep track. Every year, Feb. 14 took me by surprise. Eventually Katy wore a charm inscribed, "February 23?"

We spent a lot of time at the beach in our early years, but then Katy discovered golf — and I learned that she was a much better athlete than me. Not only did she outscore me on the course, she out-drove me. "Bob, you're away," was the usual comment.

Katy had strong roots here, friends she'd had since our marriage and even before, but when I decided I wanted to go to American Samoa as the presiding justice of the high court, she didn't hesitate, and within minutes of our arrival she was as popular with the Samoans as she was every place else.

The Samoan women promptly recruited her for their bowling league, and soon she was outscoring me on the alleys as well.

Unfortunately, age is not very kind. In the last few years, Katy suffered a number of physical blows — diabetes, Parkinson's disease and impaired lungs from a lifetime of smoking. She took each blow without complaint.

I can be very stoic after telling everyone in great detail just how much I'm suffering. She was a true stoic. If she admitted pain, you knew it was excruciating.

Age doesn't seem to improve the disposition very much either. For the first time, we began to argue over the dumbest things.

The other day, Katy got up and got dressed to go shopping. She went into the bathroom to comb her hair, and within seconds she was gone. It was a good death. She had a horror of being bedridden or hospitalized, and this was exactly what she would have wished.

I regret all those silly quarrels we had, but I don't regret a single day she was my wife.

  • was a Corona del Mar resident and a judge who died in August, 2005. This column originally ran in January, 2001.

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