By Sharon E. Siegel
For the Gazette
PORT JERVIS – Constant bounded citizen Rayola McLaughlin afresh added the appellation “centenarian” to her connected account of accomplishments.
Even afore COVID-19 bargain the bang on big parties, McLaughlin requested a quiet, simple 100th birthday, with no parties planned.
Friends old and new declared McLaughlin as humble, reserved, and quiet. Alike so, her activity has been abounding with administration roles.
Joan Rowlands was a adolescent Girl Advance in McLaughlin’s Troop 8 in the aboriginal 1940s. She became a constant friend.
While clumsy to appointment in being on her birthday, Rowlands and longtime acquaintance Lou Harford were amid the abounding who beatific wishes for McLaughlin’s 100th birthday.
“Rayola went to academy with my sister, Helen Oliver. She became my advance baton and abutting friend. In afterwards years, Lou and I would go appointment every Sunday. We would bethink about accomplished times and people, all acceptable things,” said Rowlands, who connected those common visits until this month.
A announcement allotment the day in McLaughlin honor, a photo lath of conjugal parties she outfitted and served, and abounding cards beatific over the accomplished ages were amid the altogether greetings.
“She’s aloof a acceptable person,” Harford said. “She’s funny, generous, and religious. She’s had a atomic three audiences with the pope, including a clandestine appointment with Pope John at the Vatican. She was on a lath in Rome and formed with Basal Dolan alike afore he was a cardinal.”
McLaughlin, built-in to Robert and Mary McLaughlin on March 20, 1920, was delivered at a hospital again on Sussex Street, abreast the accepted column office. Her ancestors lived on King Street in “the Acre,” which McLaughlin remembers as an Irish adjacency at the time, afore it became an Italian neighborhood.
“I went to St. Mary’s Academy through the eighth grade, and accelerating from Port Jervis Aerial Academy in 1938 – I anticipate with Kathryn Simmons,” McLaughlin recalled. “We wore fleet skirts and white blouses at St. Mary’s, and consistently dresses – not pants – in aerial school. Students were consistently dressed well.”
Among her aboriginal jobs, McLaughlin was a agent at Modern Modes Dress Shop, amid again at the bend of Ball and Sussex streets. During her years at this store, amid added experiences, she and the owner, articular in newspapers of the time as Mrs. Fred Eichbaum, helped Port Jervis Police Arch Stewart Rippon bolt addition who was capital by the FBI. The chump approved to fraudulently banknote checks at Modern Modes but Eichbaum and McLaughlin accustomed her. According to account accounts, Eichbaum adjourned the woman with baby allocution while McLaughlin aloof to a aback allowance and telephoned the chief.
McLaughlin endemic her own conjugal dress shop, Town and Country Conjugal Shop, for decades.
Mary Rita Cortright, Katherine Lemon, and Barbara Drew were amid abounding brides who recalled the joy in bells planning with McLaughlin and others at the shop, including seamstresses Catherine Rybak and Louise Piccarello, and saleswomen Annette Codichini, Mary Cashman, and Ceil Mullaly.
“It was Rayola and alone Rayola who waited on you,” Cortright said. “You approved your dress on, she zippered it up, and it was Rayola who fabricated your bells day go perfectly. She anticipation of everything; alike accepting two pairs of nylons aloof in case.”
Lemon said agreed, acquainted McLaughlin’s caring absorption to every detail for every bride.
“She fabricated every helpmate feel like she was her own daughter,” said Lemon. “I capital to let her apperceive how abundant this meant, which is why I brought the affiche lath with conjugal memories on it to her window for her birthday.”
While she did not accept accouchement of her own, McLaughlin did appear abounding weddings, fussing over and anniversary helpmate with abundant pride.
“I would drive to the abode on the day of the wedding,” McLaughlin said, animated as she recalled. “Brides admired that. I would additionally go to the abbey to accomplish abiding aggregate was right, and backward appropriate up through back they said, ‘I do.’ I would cast the alternation and accomplish abiding it was perfect. I capital to accomplish abiding their bells was aggregate they capital it to be.”
McLaughlin said over time weddings became abundant beneath abundant and formal, and bigger food gradually replaced hometown conjugal shops.
“It was so altered then,” she said. “I was additionally complex in Catholic Daughters, and I began traveling a lot. I did abounding of the accessories and alterations at night.”
McLaughlin, consistently alive and complex in her association and church, captivated a civic position of administration in which she catholic globally for several years. Afterwards captivation positions at bounded and accompaniment levels in the 1960s and ’70s, McLaughlin was adopted Civic Regent for Catholic Daughters of the Americas at a assemblage in Philadelphia and served in that position from 1986-1990. During that time, and later, she was accustomed with abounding awards presented in being by popes, bishops, and alike President George W. Bush.
Barbara Drew, who additionally captivated administration positions in Catholic Daughters of the Americas, accepted McLaughlin and her charge to her acceptance and community. Drew said she met McLaughlin afterwards activity to assignment at the Grand Union on Sussex Street in 1956.
“As anon as I started earning a paycheck, I became a chump at Rayola’s store,” Drew recalled.
When Drew and her husband, Dick, set their bells date, McLaughlin helped them accept aggregate accessible in aloof three months.
“It was altered in 1962. You didn’t charge a accomplished year to get accessible like now,” Drew recalled. “Rayola would accommodated us at night for accessories so cipher had to absence work. She angled over backwards and was 100 percent with you. The day of the bells she came to my house, collection me to the abbey in her convertible, and was there until I was all the way bottomward the aisle. Again she left.”
Drew said McLaughlin remained a role archetypal for women in the abbey and her community. She said McLaughlin was amid the bodies she angry to back she was ill a few years ago, as she had back her mother died.
Cathy Ewanciw said she is beholden to accept become a allotment of McLaughlin’s amphitheater of accompany in contempo years. Ewanciw met McLaughlin while caring for a longtime friend, Mary Wohlscheid, and afterwards assisted in McLaughlin’s care.
“Together we’ve aggregate lunches, abbey functions, pajama parties, and lots of laughs. It’s an account and a amusement to apperceive Rayola,” Ewanciw said. “She has accepted presidents, popes, and abounding added acclaimed people, and she is role archetypal and acquaintance to me.”
“She never married,” Cortright said. “She had added things to do in her activity and she did them actual well.”
When asked to reflect on her life, McLaughlin said artlessly that her activity has been a acceptable one.
“Faith has consistently been so important in my life,” McLaughlin said. “And it consistently will be.”
Rayola McLaughlin afresh acclaimed her 100th birthday. [Sharon Siegel/For the Gazette]
The assurance from the Town and Country Conjugal Boutique is a admired allowance captivated by above buyer Rayola McLaughlin’s constant accompany Joan Rowlands and Lou Harford. [Photo address of Joan Rowlands]
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