Irene Rashid Lay, 98, after a period of declining health, died peacefully on Wednesday, June 12, 2013, with her children gathered near her. She lived at Maplecrest Manor and was recently under the care of Agnesian Healthcare Hospice Hope.
She was born in Berlin, but made Ripon her home when she moved there to attend college. Family lore has it that she threw a snowball at Robert Rashid in her sophomore year and invited him to walk her home. Thirty-three very happy years and four children later she was widowed, and eight years later she married Kenneth Lay.
For most of Irene’s life she was a homemaker, which had been her dream. “All I ever wanted was to be a wife and mother,” she often said. But she did enter the business world on two separate occasions. After she graduated from Ripon in 1937, she worked in the osteopathic office of Dr. Heileman for a few years, and in 1966 she returned to her alma mater to work in the business office through the 1970s.
Throughout her lifetime Irene was an active member of the Catholic Church, volunteering in many capacities at St. Pat’s. She volunteered outside the church, too. Well into her 80s, Irene sewed Barbie doll clothes to give to Hmong children who were new to the area, and every Halloween she and Ken bought dozens of pumpkins for the kids to decorate.
Irene loved children and she loved to bake. There probably wasn’t a little kid in the neighborhood who didn’t enjoy her chocolate chip cookies. In fact, she was so well known for her baking that sometimes a neighborhood child would knock at the door and ask if she were thinking about anything to eat, and if so, was it, by chance, a cookie? Another of her specialties was baked beans. She had a lifetime rivalry with her sister, Grace Jonas, about who made the best beans. If you asked Irene, hers were better. If you asked Grace, you might get a different answer.
She loved the city of Ripon and Ripon College, often insisting that her vision of Heaven was a small town just like Ripon. And the value of education? She was a lifelong supporter of the College, as an alumna and after having worked in the business office. She and Bob harbored no doubts that their children would go on to school as they had done.
In the end, nobody could match her zest for dancing and playing cards. Even from her wheelchair she cut a rug at her granddaughters’ weddings. And contrary to her protestations (in her final days, she still insisted, “I did not!”), oh, yes, she did cheat at poker. The evidence exists on family videotapes.
Irene was predeceased by her parents and her six siblings; two husbands, Robert G. Rashid and Col. Kenneth E. Lay; and one son, Robert G. Rashid II (Marilyn Holly Cohn). She is survived by three children, Judy (Don) Christensen of Appleton, Wis., Susan (Richard) Rashid Horn of Tamworth, N.H., and Steve (Béa) Rashid of Evanston, Ill.; two step-children, Kathy (Bob) Borges of St. Louis and Bill Lay of Harrison, N.Y.; six grandchildren; seven step-grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren, to whom she will always remain their Nannie.
Visitation is planned to begin at 9 a.m. Saturday, June 15, at St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church, 218 Blossom Street, Ripon, followed by the Mass of Christian Burial at 10:30 am. The Rev. Robert A. Fictum will officiate. Attendees are invited to enjoy lunch at the church after Mass. At 1:30 p.m. those who wish may leave for the burial at St. Stanislaus Cemetery on North Wisconsin St. in Berlin.
In lieu of sending flowers, please consider contributing, in Irene’s name, to a memorial directed to the Ripon College Advancement Office, 300 Seward Street, Ripon, WI 54971.
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