Rayona Harris, who lives in Tightwad with her daughter, Karen Reimal, is an unusual woman in many good ways. She has always dropped everything in her personal life when family or community needed her …
Rayona Harris, who lives in Tightwad with her daughter, Karen Reimal, is an unusual woman in many good ways. She has always dropped everything in her personal life when family or community needed her help, and now she has displayed some bravado by skydiving in celebration of her 85th birthday.
“Mom has said for the last few years that she wanted to go skydiving when she turned 85,” said daughter Karen Reimal. “I have no idea why she wanted to skydive, but a lot of our family was onboard with her. My youngest son, Daniel Reimal and his girlfriend, Chrisdena Bastura, were caught up in the plan right away, but it took me and my sisters a while to agree to skydive with her. None of us had ever skydived before. We booked the event at Glidersports in Clinton for September 11, a day after Mom’s birthday. We were told by the staff at Glidersports that there had been someone who was frail and in the 90s age bracket who had skydived and was fine because jumpers who share the parachute gently move a person’s legs up while the jumper lands on his or her bottom. My sisters, Jan Boring, and Deb Alexander, traveled from Alabama and St. Louis, Missouri to join us for the celebration. I baked a birthday cake and took it with us to share with the skydiver team after the jump. We also had shirts made for the jump.”
“The skydiving was awesome,” said Reimal. “Mom wasn’t afraid and thought it was amazing. We arrived at Glidersports about 11 AM and finished about 1:30, so we didn’t have long wait times. We had to take a class on safety, and then three of us went up in the plane at a time. My sisters went with Mom, and I went with my son and his girlfriend. My son was ‘Over the moon!’
Reimal said that her Mom is an amazing woman. Rayona Harris, and a twin sister, were born in Ohio, MO, in 1936. Harris was puny and was sent home from the hospital while her sister was kept for treatment. Her twin died after three months, and Harris was discovered to be allergic to cow’s milk, and eventually regained her health. She graduated from Osceola High School in 1954. While in high school she played basketball, and was a cheerleader and drum major. In 1952 she was named Miss St. Clair County. Reimal said that in school her mom was called “Butch,” but now everybody calls her “Gran. Her mom was married for 32 years before getting a divorce.”
“Mom has always had a great faith in God and family,” said Reimal. “Any time someone in the family was in need of care, there were no questions asked. She just moved in with the family and cared for the one who needed her while working at her job. When my mom’s mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s she quit her job in the city and moved to Osceola to care for her. Again, she was working a job and caring for two households and her mother. Later, when her son-in-law (Reimal’s husband) was diagnosed, at age 52, with the same awful disease, Mom sold her house and moved in with our family to help take care of him until his passing. When my uncle had emphysema, (when Reimal was in elementary school), he moved in with us so he could get care at the VA hospital nearby. Mom took him there every day. She also helped her dad and sister when they were ill. ”
Reimal said that to this day if there is a craft sale or bake sale at Reimal’s work, to raise money for a worthy cause, her mom is in the kitchen baking up a storm or fixing a couple of boxes full of crafts to donate. She also said that her mom takes care of her sister’s kids when she takes mission trips to Haiti.
“Her heart is huge and golden,” said Reimal. “She is my best friend, my rock, my heart! Happy 85th Birthday!”