Friday, January 29, 2010

Remembering Mary

Mary Blackman, one of the owners of Argosy Cruises, passed away recently. I attended her memorial service Friday, fittingly, aboard the Royal Argosy at Pier 56. Hundreds of friends and co-workers were treated to a wonderful evening of remembrance. It was actually her second memorial. With so many family and loved ones in the Midwest, a memorial in Chicago was held recently also.

Mary and her husband John became primary owners of Argosy Cruises in 1990. They were married for almost 55 years after having been high school sweethearts. 55 years together...that just blows my mind. John's devotion to Mary was truly touching and especially during the last few years when Mary's health was deteriorating. John stood before us the other night to share some thoughts to the group and I just sat there in awe of this man who I respected so much, speaking from his heart about the love of his life. It was heartbreaking and wonderful at the same time.

Mary and John have been huge supporters of Camp Goodtimes ever since they first climbed aboard Argosy. Camp Goodtimes is a week long camp for pediatric cancer patients and their siblings held on Vashon Island every summer. The first time they ever saw me was on a Camp Goodtimes cruise day. I had just dove off a tower at Waterfront Park and was swimming out to the Spirit of Seattle which was filled up with kids and camp counselors. An Argosy employee was standing with John and Mary on the pier and John asked, "Who the heck is that guy?" "Oh, he's one of your captains." When I was informed that the new owners had seen the dive and swim I was a little nervous to meet them (you never get a second chance to make a first impression of course). When I did meet them I was instantly impressed with their wit, charisma and sense of humor. They wanted to know more and more about Camp Goodtimes. I sat down with them and showed them a video I had produced for camp to show to prospective donors. It told the story of little Anna Zenkner and her cancer struggle. The video started with Anna walking in to MaryBridge Hospital in Tacoma for a check-up prior to getting more chemo and ends up with her at Camp Goodtimes that summer, completely bald, but smiling, dancing, and having the time of her life. Mary and John watched the video intently and I saw Mary taking notes. I knew she was touched by Anna's story.

With former owners Lynn and Alyce Campbell originally offering the Spirit of Seattle for an all day cruise for the kids in 1989, I was worried that the new owners wouldn't carry on and make it a yearly tradition. Well, my worries were unfounded. This summer will mark the 48th time (with Christmas cruises since 1990 and now two summer cruises each year) that Argosy (and formerly Seattle Harbor Tours) has donated a boat for the children of Camp Goodtimes. Their support has been completely unconditional, with no requests for publicity whatsoever. They have supported camp because they know what a difference it makes in the lives of pediatric cancer patients and their families.

Over the years, watching that boat pull in to the pier packed with smiling, waving, screaming, singing and dancing children, Mary and John could see the result of their philanthropy. They were moved deeply by the display of energy, emotion and personal strength of these kids and I didn't really realize how much until after Mary had passed away. At her family's request, in lieu of flowers, they wish that remembrances be made in Mary's name to the American Cancer Society's Camp Goodtimes West (

With all of the great causes that Mary and John have supported over the years it was Camp Goodtimes that touched them most.

I'll miss you Mary. I still remember that warm summer evening back in 1992 when I took that portrait of you while having a "Beer on the Pier". I loved seeing you at a party and kneeling down next to you in your "power chair", hugging you and giving you a kiss on the cheek. Even in a brief moment, you made someone feel special. Thank you for making my own kids feel special too. You truly made a difference in this life and the traditions that you established I know will continue. And don't worry about John. The strength that he showed the other night aboard the Royal would have made you so proud. Judging by the outpouring of support for him that night, rest assured, he will be well taken care of.


  1. Beautiful tribute to a lovely lady; I wish I had met her. May I post a link to this on my blog?

  2. Of course Karen. Please also click on the b&w photo of Mary to see it larger. I just love that photograph. It was one of those random moments that you and I both know so well where you look back and are just so thankful that you had a camera! :)

  3. Your candid picture of my specially loved sister is wonderful to see, Paul. Thank you so much for caring about her. I will worry a little less about my truly one-of-a-kind brother-in-law because of seeing everyone on the Royal who took the time to honor both John and Mary. Miss her? My heart will never be the same but I'll sing to her each day and know that she is healed. She and John healed me too. :) I have been truly fortunate and blessed through out my life. Thanks for all you do for those kids too, Paul. It was great to meet you and others.


  4. It was so great to meet you too Susan. I definitely could see Mary in your eyes. I knew you would love that portrait of Mary. There was just something very wise and compassionate in that look on her face. You are right, so many people should be thankful that Mary is no longer struggling.

    Keep singing to Mary and I'll keep singing to the children. Let's hope and pray for healing all the way around!