By Darren Lum
The holidays will never be the same for Marylou Clark of Haliburton.
Losing her husband, Robert Clark, 64, in a tragic vehicular collision on Highway 35 north of Lindsay on Dec. 14 left her without her best friend. It is still under investigation by the OPP.
She said New Year’s Eve has not been a time for celebration ever since her father died a minute into New Year’s Day in 1996. And moving forward, Christmas won’t be like it used to be.
“And then, Rob, just before Christmas. It’s like I don’t think Christmas is ever going be the same either,” she said.
It wasn’t very long ago she and Rob were excited about plans to celebrate their upcoming 10th wedding anniversary this March. They wanted to go out east for a fishing trip. It was going to be an opportunity to share in a passion they both have.
“We love to fish. For our honeymoon, we spent it at Lake Nipissing. We spent a whole week up there. Rented a little cabin down by the lake and it was just amazing. Just absolutely amazing. I turned into a pike girl pretty quick. I love to catch pike,” she said.
The couple spent a lot of time together doing things they loved, whether it was in the dirt gardening, shooting at the gun range or hunting deer.
“He wasn’t just my husband. He was my best friend,” she said.
Marylou has joined a widow’s support group and she has appreciated being contacted by victim’s services about her welfare.
The Old Donald Road resident has been taken aback by the generosity exhibited by people, who have reached out to her with visits, phone calls, and donations of food and funds, but also by the acts of kindness. This has included sand for her driveway and offers to help with the maintenance of the property from safely cutting a tree down to helping teach her how to operate the tractor. She’s thankful to everybody, particularly her neighbours in Haliburton.
“I always knew that Old Donald Road was like its own little community, but I mean the support and the people that have come offering, you know, a shoulder to cry on, you know, bring food. People have brought food and they’ve just been fantastic,” she said.
Her daughter Jenn Abbott, who has been running the area’s Make Dreams Come True initiative, which takes donated formal clothing and helps outfit graduates, has always been impressed by the community.
“Our community may be small, but we’re mighty. When there’s a tragedy in our small community people do whatever they can to help,” she said.
Abbott started a GoFundMe for her mother (www.gofundme.com/f/help-marylou-after-tragic-death-of-husband). With a goal of $5,000, the donations have been slow in the first several days of asking for money on the online platform, but understandable given the time of year Abbott said. She is thankful for those who have donated. The money, she said, will help with immediate concerns, mainly paying bills such as mortgage payments, cost of groceries and phone service. The money is needed because her mother’s ability to earn money through her cleaning business has been challenged by her recently diagnosed chronic illnesses.
Financial donations from the public have already been helpful for Marylou. It helped her repay what was an overpay by her husband’s OMERS (Ontario Municipal Employees’ Retirement System) pension. She is now eligible for monthly payments. Up until a little more than five years ago, Rob had worked in maintenance and custodial services for Trillium Lakelands District School Board since the mid-1980s.
The self-employed widow, who has had her business for close to 20 years not only received a positive Lupus test, but she was later diagnosed with fibromyalgia this past summer.
Her ailments limit her to close to three hours before the pain in her feet, knees, hips, lower back, neck and is too much. She is experiencing deteriorating discs.
“They have me on some new medication right now that’s helping, but with fibromyalgia when you get stressed, very stressed the pain is so severe and nothing seems to take it away,” she said.
Some of her medication and treatments such as massages and chiropractic care is covered by her husband’s benefits, but that only amounts to $125 a month.
“It’s probably about maybe half of what I use,” she said.
Abbott said she recognizes this is a difficult time to ask for money, but anything will help her mother.
“We’re hopeful, but at the end of the day a lot of people in the community and around the world are struggling, right? COVID, right after Christmas. You know what I mean? So, if we can get a little bit that helps her pay her mortgage or helps pay some bills we’re grateful for that … it’s a very trying time for everybody and we understand that,” she said.
She said the GoFundme also generates interest through social media and there is a track record of success related to large sums of money being generated for people Abbott knows. It was also started for people who felt more comfortable donating through GoFundMe than the trust fund set up at the Toronto Dominion Bank in Minden by her mother’s friends Rita McCarthy and Kelly Hatton.
Hatton said the public can help with depositing directly into the trust fund in her friend’s name (Marylou Carol Clark) at the Minden branch, e-transfer or direct deposit. She started the trust fund account at the bank to ensure all the money donated went to her friend instead of another party.
Rob’s loss is huge, as he was Marylou’s caregiver, which included transportation to regular treatments, since the recent diagnoses, Hatton adds.
“We’re all doing our best to help,”she said.
It’s clear moving forward will be painful for Marylou. It’s a difficult future without Rob. They were together for close to 13 years. She adds when they first met each other there was a familiarity.
“It was like we knew each other for a billion years. Yeah, we’re like two peas in a pod. It was like finishing each other’s sentences and just goofing around,” she said.
She takes solace in the scenario of the tragedy.
“If it had to happen, I’m glad it happened quickly and he wasn’t in pain,” she said.