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Bea Kozera: Jack Kerouac’s Lost Lover

If you’ve read Jack Kerouac’s 1957 novel On The Road, you probably remember the heart-rending section in which protagonist Sal Paradise, who’s waiting to catch a bus from Bakersfield to Los Angeles, suddenly spies “the cutest little Mexican girl in slacks coming across my sight.” Suddenly lovestruck, Sal rushes to jump instead onto the bus that the woman is boarding, and spends five minutes trying to find the courage to offer her his raincoat to use as a pillow. Sal and the woman – “Terry,” in the novel – end up becoming lovers. Before long, however, they sadly realize that they aren’t meant for each other: “We turned at a dozen paces, for love is a duel, and looked at each other for the last time.”

'Manana Means Heaven' by Tim HernandezTerry – like the rest of the characters who people Kerouac’s feverish, frenetic prose – was based on a real woman named Beatrice Kozera, whom he actually met on a bus in 1947 and with whom he had a brief affair. For decades scholars and Kerouac biographers searched for her to no avail, until in 2012 a writer named Tim Z. Hernandez finally located her in Fresno, Calif.

Here are some fascinating facts about Kozera, who died on Aug. 15 at age 92 in Lakewood, Calif.:

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