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Gone Racin’…Mari Palash Biography by Richard Parks Nov. 28, 2012

Gone Racin’…Mari Palash Biography by Richard Parks Nov. 28, 2012
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Gone Racin’…Mari Palash Biography
By Richard Parks

Mari Nosker (Palash) was born on January 21, 1936 in New Lexington, Ohio to Wilbur Arthur Nosker and Helen Schofield Nosker. Wilbur was born in Ohio and Helen was born in Moxahala, Ohio. Mari was raised in farm country in Ohio and this set the tone of her life. She always remembered her youth and the rural country that was a part of her early years. Mari was raised during the Great Depression and her early life was not always pleasant, but her strong will and personality gave her an inner happiness that she brought to others. She was very close to her mother. She missed the wide open spaces, especially when she moved out to California. Mari always kept to those Midwestern roots, manners and values all of her life.

She moved west to Los Angeles, California on August 14, 1945 on VJ Day (Victory declared by the United States over Japan ending World War II). Mari came with her mother, who was an educated and gentle woman, and to whom Mari was very close. Mari attended North Hollywood High School and loved all of the activities and social events at the school. She made lots of friends and had an outgoing and friendly personality. Mari loved to help other people and joined the Chanticleers, an organization dedicated to serving others. After Graduation she attended the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles. Her attributes included that of a loyal friend, a rebel who looked at the world in her own eyes, a talented artist and creator and a loving and devoted mother. She had quite an eye for fashion and she was always someone who could make the latest styles look beautiful. Her humor, wit and beauty simply lit up the room at any event.

Mari worked for various businesses; Universal Studios, with Young & Rubicam and as a flight attendant for Western Airlines, which she loved. Mari was always impeccably dressed and glamorous. She gave up a career to be a wonderful mom to Andrea and wife to Harvey Palash. Mari met Harvey on Balboa Island, a scenic bit of paradise in the Newport Bay. They married and had one daughter, Andrea Palash, who was born in October, 1961 in Inglewood, California. Harvey and Mari first lived in Sherman Oaks, California and then they moved to the East Valley. Later they moved to the West Valley and then to Rancho Mirage and Coronado. After their separation, Mari moved to Newport Beach, California. She had many wonderful friends; including Chris Carlton, Barbara Livingston Parks, Sandie Gardner, Marilyn Lachman, Shirley Bunce and many more. She had a way of making people feel at ease and welcome. She was well known for being a maverick and for doing the impossible as soon as she was told she couldn't do it. She was active in road rallies in the 1980's and when her partner couldn't make it she would call on Marilyn Lachman to be her navigator. Once when the route took her on the freeway ramp she stopped the car in the middle of the ramp and refused to go any farther. Marilyn had to drive to the next off-ramp and learned that Mari could navigate by any road, except for freeways.

Shirley Bunce and Mari Palash knew each other for 43 years when she first met Mari at the 1967 US Nationals. "I was hired as a secretary to work for the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA). Wally Parks was the President of the NHRA and he felt I should know a little bit more of what I had got into and I helped out a little in the press room at that race. I applied for the position of secretary to Jack Hart and later helped out in general, including answering the telephone," said Shirley. It was the first drag race for Mari and Shirley and they became good friends. Mari's husband, Harvey Palash, was exploring the possibility of setting up a film and video deal with the NHRA at the time. That venture would turn into a company called Diamond P. Shirley believes that Peggy Morrissey made the first contact with Harvey and that there might have been some connection with ABC Sports. "Dallas Gardner and Brian Tracy worked closely with Harvey," Shirley added. Harvey became a Board member of the NHRA, along with Wally Parks, Dallas Gardner, Brian Tracy and Dick Wells.

Mari and Shirley often laughed about their first meeting. It was no secret that Mari wasn't a morning person. "I was walking in the grounds of the Holiday Inn when this little girl of probably 4 or 5 approached me and asked if I would like to meet her mother. Of course I said yes and she took me to their room and a very surprised Mari opened the door. Since then we have spent many fun times together in the desert, Coronado and Newport Beach," said Shirley. "Mari was into photography in a big way and she came to my townhouse in Burbank and took pictures of Racer Brown and I, one of which made the pages of National Dragster when they did a tribute to Racer following his passing. Mari had a close friendship with Leslie Lovett, a drag racing photographer, and would always stop by his office when she visited us in North Hollywood to discuss photography. She was also invited to my NHRA retirement party. When I see you next time I'll try to remember to show you a great picture, taken at the 1988 SEMA Show, of Barbara, Mari and I," Shirley added.

Mari was always up for a party and was happy to be remembered by her friends. She was very independent and insisted on doing for herself. I remember inviting her to my father's Celebration of Life in 2007. She wasn't driving at that time, so it was a sacrifice and a struggle for her. My son and brother lived close by and I told Mari that we would give her a ride to the Celebration and return her home, but she refused. She arrived in a Limo and was dressed beautifully as she always was and the moment she arrived the gloomy atmosphere was gone. She simply wouldn't let us feel depressed. That was Mari's gift to us and to everyone around her. Mari passed away on July 3, 2010.

On Saturday, September 11, 2010, a Celebration of Life was held in Newport Beach, California to honor the life of Mari F. Palash. The event was hosted by Andrea Palash, Mari's only child and present was Mari's daughter-in-law, Jessica Watson, and her grandson, Jonathan Palash-Mizner. The Celebration of Life began at 1 pm on board the Electra, a boat built in the 1920's and used now for events within the Newport Beach Harbor and inlet. Present were Mari's friends from the Orange County Museum of Modern Art, where Mari served as a board member. Also present were Marilyn and Ron Lachman, Shirley Bunce, Sandy Evans, Chris Carlton, Betty and Brian Tracy, Sandie and Dallas Gardner, Richard and Epi Parks and about 25 friends and family members. Andrea read a heartfelt eulogy about her mother's life.

"I would like to thank you all for being here and I welcome you to this celebration of my mother’s life. I am 48 years old and I can honestly say I have never been so sad or felt so adrift. At the same time, I have never been so aware of how many hands are prepared to steady me when I wobble and I assure you, I have done a prodigious amount of wobbling in the last two months. You­my mother’s friends­are an integral part of the extraordinary legacy my mother has left me. I want to take a moment to thank a number of you who stepped forward and helped me in ways I cannot begin to describe: To Lynn Brown and Marilyn Lachman for your words of advice and encouragement and for your help in getting word of today’s celebration to Mom’s friends from the Museum Council and the racing community. Thank you. To my amazing aunties, Marilyn Davis and Chris Carlton, for speaking in mom’s honor and for keeping a very close eye on me in mom’s absence, thank you. Mom would be crazy proud of you. To my best friend, Emily, who is also known as Pooky, who my mother thought was a most excellent choice for a best friend; To my partner, Jessica, for whom my mother had a profound affinity and respect; To my mother’s grandson, my son Jonathan, whom my mother thought was one of the most interesting, funniest, smartest, most attuned kids she had ever met."

"I would not have made it through the last two months, let alone the last two years, without the constant love, support, understanding, patience, and help of my best friend, my partner, and my son. To my small but mighty family, I say thank you. And truth be told, I would have none of you were it not for my mother. My mother was many different people. She defied categories and woe betide anyone who tried to fit her into one. I have heard my mother described as 'brilliant,' 'feisty,' 'one in a million,' a 'character,' a 'fighter' and 'fierce.' My mother was all of those things and then some. My mother was born in 1936, a child of the depression and soon to be a witness to a world at war. She was no stranger to scarcity. She came of age in what she described as the 'carefree hedonism' of the 1950’s and then watched her world become a radically different place in the tumult of the 1960’s and '70’s. My mother was born in the Midwest, Ohio and moved to California, Los Angeles, when she was 9. Mom took immense pride in her Midwestern roots and she was, in many ways, a Buckeye to the bone all her life. She had common sense, she was resourceful and canny, she could fish and throw knives. She climbed trees and rode horses (bareback, no saddle or stirrups for this girl from Somerset) and mixed things up with the local bully (I will leave it to you to decide who emerged the victor).

By the same token, my mother knew she had moved to a place very different in its sensibilities and affect and she liked that. My mother liked the movement and the vibrancy of Southern California; I cannot tell you how many times Mom told me about the thrill she experienced riding the streetcar from one end of LA to another, how beautiful and how full of promise and peace the Los Angeles of her childhood was. That was a place my mother cherished; that was the place my mother described when she talked about growing up in LA. It sounded gorgeous and romantic and larger than life and I am very sorry I never got to see it. My mother also understood that, as time passed, the world was changing around her and she observed everything to make sense of things. Mom watched very carefully and waited before she made decisions. My mother was very much a product of her time and at the same time, not at all. My mother was a woman of the '50’s. As such, she ended up following a fairly traditional path: she raised me and she ran our home. Had she been afforded the same opportunities she made sure I was and had she grown up in the same climate of opportunity I was privileged to take for granted, I have no doubt she would have stood shoulder to shoulder with Annie Liebowitz or Martha Stewart, Margaret Bourke White or Katharine Graham. As things stood, Mom pushed her share of edges.

My mother was a flight attendant (in the parlance of The Day, a stewardess) for Western airlines. You will see her picture in her uniform on the table here. My mother told me countless stories of her work on planes: the time when she replied to Herb Caen, the famous communist for the San Francisco Chronicle, when he said, leaving LA, that he could not wait to get back to 'The City,' 'Why, sir, you’re just leaving The City,' or the time she flew into Denver Colorado in a thunderstorm in a DC-9 prop jet like it was nothing or how she and her fellow 'stews' would belly up to the oxygen tanks after a night of drinking and bounce back like phoenixes to make the return trip home. My mother LOVED flying. My mother worked at Universal Studios and met Clint Eastwood at the beginning of his career, when he was starring in Rawhide, but what she remembered about him was that he was polite. Mom was a secretary at Young & Rubicam, a prestigious ad agency in Los Angeles that did some very cutting edge work. Mom thought the work was exciting and new, but what she loved most was that she worked and made her own way. If you look at some of the pictures from my mother’s early adulthood, you will see that she looked like Audrey Hepburn. What the pictures don’t show is that, while she may have looked like a move star, she reasoned like Aristotle. My mother was many different people.

She was intensively creative. She studied interior design, jewelry design and photography and excelled at all of them. She had an artist’s eye for things and a reverence for beauty. My mother could tell you there is an infinite number of shades of blue AND she could explain to you in terms anyone could understand AND find interesting why this is so. My mother was born in January, under the sign of Aquarius, and proudly claimed every facet of her fundamental Aquarian nature; loyal, independent, inventive, contrarian, strong willed and imaginative. My mother never finished college, but she was one of the single most brilliant, articulate and erudite people I have ever met. My mother never backed down from a confrontation, intellectual, philosophical or otherwise. It may have taken some time for her to get her bearings, but she invariably showed up and always persevered to find a place of common understanding. I have seen my mother underestimated and it was not pretty. I have been fortunate to be educated at one of the country’s finest universities. That being said, the most important lessons I have learned in this life were taught to me by my mother: My mother did not have an easy childhood and her ties to her family were few. With a few exceptions, my mother MADE her family from people she chose to be her family, long before we were given the idea that one could have a 'family of choice' as opposed to a 'family of origin,' From my mother I learned the value of friendship.

My mother said to me: 'If you want to have a friend BE a friend.' Never did I imagine something so simple would translate into something that would so profoundly affect the quality of my life. My mother, who grew up with virtually nothing and who worked from the time she was a young girl, made sure that my path would be easy and clear. From my mother I learned the beauty of generosity. My mother said to me about money: 'It’s made round to go ‘round.' My mother, whose family life was fractured and hard, made sure I knew I was loved and that I could do anything to which I set my mind. From my mother I learned the power of loyalty, the power of love, the power of belief, but most of all, I learned that these are things one gives one’s friends, one’s family, and most importantly, one’s children; without question and without end. From my mother I learned these lessons. Lessons for which I am profoundly grateful and that I hope I can pass on to my children so that someday when they find themselves in the middle of their lives, touched by sadness, they will find as well that they are buoyed by hope.

For my part, I have a great many things I hope for my mother: There are so many things I hope I said to you. I hope to God I said thank you, for everything. There are so many things I hope you knew. I hope you knew that I am OK. I hope that you knew that I love you, fiercely, like you loved me. I hope you knew that, no matter what, you were mine and I was yours. I hope you knew I thought you were remarkable and amazing. There are so many things I hope are true for you now. I hope that you are in a place of peace and laughter and abundance. I hope that you have absolutely no recollection of what it is to hurt. I hope that you have 50 little dogs. I hope that you are in heaven, and that in your Heaven Yul Brenner brings you (and your 50 little dogs) coffee ice cream dressed in nothing but a towel. I hope that you are in Heaven and that in your Heaven there is a brand new episode of 'Burn Notice' every 40 minutes. I hope that in your Heaven there is a Bloomingdales across the street, the coolest darkroom ever, and the perfect cheeseburger on demand 24/7.

I hope that you are watching us with all of your friends; two and four-footed, who are not with us today, let us take a moment to remember my mom’s mom, my grandmother, Helen Nosker, whom my mother honored, adored, and missed all the days of her life; my mother’s dear friend and partner in untold madness, my auntie Margot Clark (and auntie Margot’s husband, Stew Clark), my auntie Joyce Ormont and Joyce’s husband, Tony; Barbara and Wally Parks, Bill Crites, Steve Evans, Dorothy Cissna, and Dick Wells. Forgive me if I have missed anyone. The last couple years of mom’s life were hard: she spent more time in hospitals than she did at home. I believe she is now at peace. I miss her. I think of that line from the movie The Big Chill about memorial services: 'Amazing tradition. They throw a great party for you on the one day they know you can't come.' I wish she could be here. I will carry her with me everywhere I go. I thank you all, again, for being here today to honor mom’s memory. You, her friends and her family, were her treasures. In parting, I ask you all to raise a glass and offer a toast: to Mom."

Gone Racin' is at [email protected].