Mary Raftary’s Eulogy to her Mother, Alice Raftary

There was a young coed named Alice
Who thought she would live in a palace.
But she married that Ray,
And though life is gay,
Her hands are all covered with callous.

That limerick was written by Alice Geisler Raftary. Each of us learned it as an example at about the time that we were given a school assignment to write our own.

Our mother was a singularly phenomenal woman—wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother, sister, friend.

She had a cheerful heart. She saw the good in everything around her. Once, everyone from the weatherman to the man on the street was bemoaning the high winds. When asked, "How about those winds?," she responded, "Isn’t it glorious?"

She knew how to roll with the punches. When she became legally blind in her early 30s, what might have been a devastating development became an opportunity for growth. She decided that her calling was to become a rehabilitation teacher for the visually impaired. By the time Rose, the youngest, was in school full time, Mom had finished a Masters degree and was at work.

She often said that her chosen design for childrearing was one of benign neglect—a perfect plan for raising orchids. She was keenly aware of our feelings and needs at all times. She taught us what we needed to know and then stepped back and let us go. It worked well for us. She managed to raise the eight of us as unique, independent, successful individuals.

She taught us that our choices form our entire being. Even when a choice made did not take us where we had hoped it would, she admonished us to give ourselves a break and to keep moving forward—no regrets.

She told the truth. How many of you heard the words, "Oh, Honey," just before she had a difficult conversation with you? It was just a little sugar before she got down to the real lesson.

She encouraged others—her children, family, friends, clients, and colleagues. She was able to see the gifts in each of us and found ways to help us to blossom personally and professionally.

She was fearless. She loved roller coasters and always sat in the front seat. She did not think twice about getting on the back of a Gold Wing when she was 81, and parasailed when she was 82. She flew in a two-seater plane when she was 83, and took an airboat ride at 84. She made her debut on the Wheatland stage with the Kentucky Brotherhood just last fall. She considered bungie jumping and a tandem sky dive last summer. We responded with a resounding, "Absolutely not!" So, she set her sights on hot air ballooning.

She believed that it was important to learn something new every day. She played the autoharp. After her retirement, she started piano lessons and honed her computer skills.

She sang often—in the car, while cleaning, just because. We begged her to sing cowboy songs over and over.

She loved music, art and theater. She always had one or more extra tickets for concerts, operas or play so that she could share the experience with others.

She was a bibliophile who enjoyed discussing the books she read.

She watched every episode of Star Trek—every generation. She saw every Star Trek film that was made. She was excited when she was able to sit in the captain’s chair of the Enterprise.

She was a collector of people. An eclectic group of people was drawn to her. Everyone was welcome in our home and there was always room for one more. She was deliberate in assuring that we had varied experiences. She delighted in having people of diverse backgrounds and beliefs meet to talk. Does anyone remember the day she arranged for the Jehovah Witnesses and the Mormons to arrive for coffee at the same time?

She was a master at simplifying tasks. She said that it was because she was somewhat lazy herself, but I think that it really spoke to her belief that doing things the hard way is a waste of time. The field of blindness rehabilitation benefitted from her simplification of the tasks of teaching sewing and insulin management to the visually impaired.

She said that hospitality was one of her virtues. There was a pot of coffee ready for anyone who might stop in. Not a coffee drinker? There was always cold Vernors. Be it cottage cheese and cantaloupe, lime jello with pineapple, rice pudding, a fried Spam or bologna sandwich on toast or rye, or a couple of cookies, you would certainly be served on hand painted china and have a cloth napkin in your lap.

She enjoyed being a celebrity, but was humbled by being chosen to join the ranks of Marygrove’s Distinguished Alumni and her induction in the American Printing House Hall of Fame for Legends and Leaders of the Blindness Field. She was inducted in the same class as Helen Keller.

She lived a full and amazing life and touched the lives of many desperate people who thought that their lives were at an end due to blindness. She gave people courage and hope when all they knew was despair.

She loved deeply.

She laughed often.

She lit up a room with her smile.

She gave marvelous hugs.

She was a woman of deep faith. She taught us that with faith and love, all things are possible. She said that she did not want to die, but that she was not afraid of death. She thought that death would be her next great adventure.

She has moved on. We will move forward in our own lives—loving and learning as she taught us. We are the mirror of all that she was.

Welcome to the celebration of the gift who was our mother.

Alice Raftary’s Hall of Fame Biography