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TYCOON VERA'S TEARS FOR OLD SCHOOL CHUM; Mary dies after pounds 100k NY party.

Byline: By Paul Drury

SHOP tycoon Vera Weisfeld was last night mourning one of the old pals she treated to a pounds 100,000 New York party.

Mary O'Byrne, who celebrated her 70th birthday during the lavish reunion in September, is believed to have suffered a stroke.

Mary, from Coatbridge, had been at a line-dancing class with husband Jake just before she collapsed on Monday.

Vera, who founded the What Every Woman Wants shop empire, said last night: "Me and the other girls have cried for two days. She was the life and soul of the party. She was the one who could kick higher than anyone.

"We are just devastated."

Vera, 69, was joined by pals Nan McLaughlan, Mamie Reid, Mary, AnnMackay and Margaret Murphy on the New York trip.

They all started at St

Patrick's Primary in Coatbridge with her in 1942.

The pals enjoyed luxury accommodation at the five-star New York Palace hotel.

And they met a seventh classmate, Eileen Popp, who now lives in New York.

The trip included a whirlwind tour of the Big Apple, taking in a Broadway show, shopping at Bloomingdale's and a Harbour Lights Evening Cruise.

Just before leaving, Mary said: "It's all our birthdays and Christmases rolled into one. We are so lucky we started school on the same day as that lady."

Vera added: "Mary loved all the publicity that went with news of the trip taking place.

"She couldn't walk down the street without people shouting, 'How Was New York, Mary?' She loved it. Her family said she had a wonderful final year."

Mary's funeral takes place today and her friends will honour her with flowers in the shape and colours of the US flag.

CAPTION(S):

MEMORIES: Left to right, Mamie, Mary, Vera and Ann
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Nov 2, 2007
Words:297
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