Paul V. Coates–Confidential File

Oct. 16, 1957

At 3:24 a.m., the ambulance arrived.

The victim was rushed to Hollywood Receiving Hospital for emergency
treatment. His condition was critical. He was then taken to General

Nine hours later, he was pronounced dead.

That was still quite a few hours before his letter reached me. When it came, I read it a couple of times.

Then I called his wife.

"I’ve been expecting your call," she told me. "He mentioned it–that you’d contact me–in the note he left me."

"Do you know what he wanted me to do?" I asked her.

She couldn’t be sure, she said. She asked to hear the letter. I read it to her.

"Dear Paul," it read. "I am on my way out.

"I have tried this before and it didn’t take. This time it will.

"I am writing this to you knowing that I am gone.

"Paul, the only reason I have lived as long as I have is on account of
my son. He is a fine boy, no trouble for his mother, but I couldn’t
send him enough money for his music.

"Paul, he is a wonderful pianist, loves and wants to practice every
day, usually kids have to be punished to practice, but not him, Paul. I
feel myself going.

"I addressed this before I wrote you so I know you will get it.

"I am not asking for charity for my boy but he has a great future ahead
of him and if you heard him play you would see what I mean.

"Paul, this sweet little woman here will tell you all about it. I have left her holding the bag, with all the bills to pay.

"This is not a sympathy or help letter, it is just some way to tell my son I didn’t let him down.

"And you being a right guy, I think you will know how to do it.

"God bless my son and sweet little wife here."

It broke her up a bit. "He loved his boy," she said. "I guess he’s right when he says he lived for him."

"The boy," she said, "was by his previous marriage. But he’d come to California to visit us."

We talked some more.

"He was really a wonderful man," she told me. "Every extra dollar he got he’d send to the boy."

She said she had met her husband five years ago, in the South.

I asked her again about the piano lessons, if there was something I could do.

"No. Really, the boy has a good home. A good mother."

She paused. The silence was heavy.

Then she spoke again:

"There were times when my husband was a rich man. he had, well, $100,000, maybe $150,000.

"But lately, both of us had been working. You understand?"

"I think so," I said.

She continued: "He never got used to it. He wanted good money again, to send to the boy."

We were on the verge of hanging up when she spoke again.

"If you want to write anything–well, I shouldn’t tell you how.

"But it would be nice if you could write how beautifully the boy plays the piano.

"That’s what his father would want."

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in Columnists, Paul Coates, Suicide and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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