Friends · My Thoughts · square dance

Kathi Raver: Another Woman to Celebrate

Kathi Raver comes to mind as another woman to celebrate during National Women’s History Month, focusing on the women in my history. I end this celebratory month for women with her and her powerful place in my life.

We met in 1995 when she started square dancing with Duke City Singles in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and she became my best girlfriend in the square dance world. We were quite a pair—me five feet three and she a stately five eleven!

One similarity we shared was teaching: I taught my entire career in the middle school. Kathi taught in the middle school and high school. She was a P. E. instructor and coached volleyball and basketball.

Another similarity we both shared: hard-headed and opinionated. Interestingly, these lively traits caused only one disagreement between us.

Katherine (Kathi) Raver was born in Hobbs, New Mexico on May 22, 1950 and had two brothers.

For many years, as an adult, Kathi lived in the South Valley of Albuquerque and enjoyed a large garden. In 1997, her brother built her dream house in the east mountains. She fell in love with the mountains.

When I met Kathi, she had two big dogs and one lap dog, Babe. For many years, she spent the summers in Alaska at an active gold mine. I loved to hear her tales from that faraway place.

Kathi struggled with melanoma twenty years before I met her, went into remission, but it came back when I knew her. I so respected her for how she dealt with its reoccurrence. She continued working and daily gave herself shots. She lost her hair and kept smiling.

Because of her leadership skills, she soon became president of Duke City Singles and chaired the Fling, our spring square and round dance festival. We worked on the Fling for several years together. What a duo we were working on it! Many of the favors she gave us on the committee as a personal thank you were items she had made.

Kathi thanking me on stage for helping with the Single Fling!
Kathi thanking me on stage for helping with the Single Fling!

In 2003, we hosted DAR (Dance-A-Rama) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was partially her idea! Kathi, Wanda & Cecelia, three friends, went to Oklahoma City in 2000 for their first DAR, the national singles square dance festival. When they got home, Kathi said to me, “We want to host one here, but you have to chair it.” So, I did it. After our successful event, Kathi and I promised each other we would go into the same nursing home in our twilight years and reminisce about DAR, 03 and all the fun! Sadly, that didn’t happen!

One of my favorite memories of Kathi happened at the Dance-A-Rama we hosted. She hated practical jokes, but I loved them. One of our callers, Mike Bramlett, had started a silly string war the first day of our festival.

Kathi relaxing at DAR03! Not feeling great!
Kathi relaxing at DAR03! Not feeling great!

I encouraged Kathi to join me in spraying him with the silly string while he called. What we did: ran by him and pretended to spray him a couple times, then we unloaded two cans on him. Her musical laughter still rings in my ears. Her contagious laughter always filled the air when she was tickled. And you need to know she was doing chemotherapy then and didn’t feel well when this craziness happened.

Many women pride themselves in having a unique square dance outfit that no one else has. Whenever we were at a festival, Kathi and I looked for look-alike outfits from the vendors—me in the small section and her in the large. When she passed away, we had thirteen outfits alike. What fun we had when we found one in both of our sizes that we both liked. For years, we did an outfit check before a dance weekend to see what we would wear each night.

Kathi and me in poodle skirts she made for our theme dance at the Spring Fling
Kathi and me in poodle skirts she made for our theme dance at the Spring Fling

Also, Kathi made several of my square dance outfits when she was chairing the Fling. She always felt that it helped me out because she liked to sew and I did the computer stuff for us for the Fling.

One year, we went to the TASSD (Texas Area Single Square Dance) festival in Amarillo. Our new club caller, Art Tangen, was one of the callers. We decorated our petty pants on the backside with, “I heart Art!” So, when he called Saturday night in the big hall, we went up in front of the crowd and flipped up our dresses so he could see our devotion. Unknown to Kathi or me, someone took a picture and her bottom appeared in the TASSD newsletter the next month.

When Kathi and I were in a square together, the fun began! We loved to have fun, making noise and enjoying ourselves. She called it, “hooting and hollering.” One of our favorite activities was “touch a quarter,” a call we added some physical contact to, and it became the focus of many of squares we were in.

Kathi measuring an inseam for the 50/50 drawing
Kathi measuring an inseam for the 50/50 drawing

Kathi loved to do the 50/50 pot and measure the inseam of guys to decide how many tickets they received for a set price and kidded with them–it added a lot of fun to any event! Remember, this was a single club and single event!

Me with Kathi and Lin at the Spring Fling
Me with Kathi and Lin at the Spring Fling

Kathi met Lin Miller, a square dancer, in 2003 at Festigal, a square and round dance festival in Gallup, New Mexico, and her single life ended. In 2005, I witnessed Lin asking her to marry him on stage at Festigal. He shocked her and the crowd, but what a beautiful moment. They married August 2005 in Alaska at the gold camp.

We traveled a lot together to Norfolk, Nebraska, to a dance festival to promote DAR 2003. She drove her Tahoe full of women. How she concentrated with all the chatter and laughter is beyond me! Another year, Kathi and I flew to Omaha, Nebraska and spent the night in my ex’s van at a casino, then on to Norfolk the next day. Then another year after DAR 2003, I went with Lin and her to Norfolk, driving all night, laughing at her antics with her GPS.

My ex and I spent many late nights playing cards with Lin and Kathi after dancing at Duke City Singles. We traveled to many festivals and danced together.

In 2008, Kathi, Lin, my ex’s daughter-in-law, and I went on a square dance cruise to Alaska. It was our first cruise, so we were all excited. Kathi and I enjoyed grabbing a hot dog off of the kids’ buffet every time we went through the cafeteria. When we selected excursions, Kathi specifically wanted to do the zipline, which became our favorite excursion.

I became a redhead because of Kathi. In 2007, we stood in line for breakfast at a restaurant in Norfolk, Nebraska. Kathi tapped me on the shoulder and pointed out a fiery red head a few people ahead of us.

“Go ask her what color she uses. You would look great in that color!” So I did! The color’s name: Hot Tamale! I dyed my hair as soon as we got home but went back to my original color after a few months. After my Mom died in 2013, I dyed it that color and have been a redhead ever since—all because of Kathi.

When I divorced my ex in 2008, Kathi went house hunting with me, helping me find a beautiful townhouse ten minutes from the dance hall. When I moved in, she hooked up my gas dryer. Her brother instructed her on how to do it. She climbed behind the dryer–her tall frame barely fitting there—to save me $85!

My heart shattered on November 25, 2009, the day Kathi died. I stood by her bed with Lin, her sister-in-law and other close girlfriends, and witnessed her last breath. Mom and I had visited her a couple of days before at her house. Her death came so quickly.

Here, fourteen years later, I see Kathi every day. Why? Because Lin and I married in 2011 and live in her house! In 2009, Kathi’s cancer returned repeatedly. At a dance festival we started in August, she told a friend of ours, “When I’m gone, I hope Lin and Larada get together. They would make each other happy!” Did she know her time here was ending? Was she prophetic?

Square dancing intertwined our lives together for fourteen years: teachers, dancers, game players and friends. My life will never be the same because of Kathi Raver!

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Friends · My Thoughts · square dance · Travel

Part 2: Two Special Friends Continued!

Kathi twirling - Part 2
Kathi Twirling

Part 2 of my series on two special friends continues today. I met Kathi Raver at Duke City Singles square dance club in 1997, excited to have a younger woman to relate to—she was a teacher, too! She immediately jumped in and took part in the club’s leadership.

Kathi stood nearly six-foot-tall and I’m 5 feet 3 inches, so we were like Mutt and Jeff for sure, but we loved to dress alike with our square dance clothes. When she died, we had about thirteen outfits alike.

One year to promote the Fling, we went to TASSD (Texas Area Single Square Dancers) in Amarillo, Texas—Art Tangen, our club caller, was calling. So, we decorated our petty pants on our backside with, “I (a heart) Art!” Then we mooned him when he was calling, showing him our petti pants and our support. Someone took a picture of Kathi’s bottom, and they featured her on the TASSD newsletter the next month.

I had been the chairperson for the New Mexico Singles Fling for several years, and she became my co-chair, then chaired it for several years. I stayed onboard the committee then and did the publicity for her. We had so much fun on that committee, producing major successful event, one right after the other.

For years, we did an outfit check before a dance weekend to see what we would wear each night. Kathi made several of my square dance outfits when she was chairing the Fling. She always felt that it helped me out because she liked to sew and I did the computer stuff for us for the Fling.

In 2000, she and two other women square dancers from Albuquerque went to Oklahoma City for Dance-A-Rama, the national single square dance festival. They came home and convinced me to chair the Dance-A-Rama in Albuquerque in 2003.

To promote Dance-A-Rama, 2003, the committee traveled to Richmond, Virginia, Norfolk, Nebraska and Dallas, Texas. Those travel trips top the list of my memories with Kathi. We had a blast doing it, and again, we had a major success. After DAR, 03, we promised each other we would go into the same nursing home and remember DAR, 03 and all of our fun antics over the years.

During this time, Kathi’s melanoma came back with a vengeance after being in remission for twenty years. It broke my heart to watch my spirited, fun-loving friend slow down as she dealt with this horrible disease. She continued working and daily gave herself shots as needed.

In 2004, Kathi met Lin Miller, and immediately they connected. In 2005, I treasure the memory of being present at Festigal, an annual square dance festival in Gallup, New Mexico where they met, when Lin asked her to marry him. Her face said absolute shock.

We hung out together with my ex-husband. We danced all over the Southwest together. When we were home, we danced at Duke City Singles on Friday night, then afterwards played cards until the wee hours of the morning.

Kathi’s the one responsible for my red hair. At a dance in Norfolk, Nebraska, in 2007, we went out to have breakfast. She saw a woman standing in line in front of us. Casually, she whispered in my ear, “Go ask her what color she uses. You’d look great with red hair.”

So, I did. The women chuckled, “Hot Tamale.” I came home and colored it and loved it. I returned to my natural color after a year, but in 2013 I went back to “Hot Tamale” and have had it red ever since. Every time I color it, I think of her.

During the years, we traveled together a lot. In 2008, we went to Branson, Missouri with two other couples. We cried at the Roy Rogers Museum during the show with Roy’s grandson.

In 2008, my ex and I broke up, and Kathi and Lin took me under their wing. Kathi went house hunting with me and her sister-in-law was a realtor. She would tell her sister-in-law, “Larada can’t afford this place.”

When I moved into my new townhouse, Kathi helped me find it. After getting instructions from her brother on how to do it, she hooked up my gas dryer. She climbed behind the dryer with barely enough room to get around in. She did it to save me $85.

In thinking about relationships, Kathi had a brisk attitude about them: give your mourning time of six months, then get on with life. She had a hard time watching me deal with my recent divorce—she wanted me to move on.

Her cancer came back with a vengeance again, and she kept beating it, but she couldn’t for the last time. Her powerful spirit still shown through, though. When the ambulance drove her to the hospice in Albuquerque, they went to the wrong hospital, and she had to direct them to the right one! Leave it to Kathi.

Kathi died on November 25, 2009, eleven years ago today. I felt privileged to be by her side when she died. My heart felt shattered as I stood by her bed and witnessed her last breath after our fourteen years relationship. What a privilege to be there!

Her spirit lives on around me today—because Lin, her husband, and I ended up together and married. We live in her house she built. Some might be uneasy about this. I have never had an issue because I remembered her strong directive when my ex and I broke up—take six months and get on with life.

Lin and I had a very interesting confirmation about our relationship from a mutual friend of ours and Kathi after she died. We’re all on the committee of an annual dance, Hot August Nights. Kathi and this friend were talking in the kitchen. Kathi had been battling her last round of cancer. She watched me on the dance and told our friend, “I hope Lin and Larada get together if something happens to me. They would make each other happy.” That was August; she died in November!

So every day I get to thank Kathi for so much! The memories, the fun, the craziness an her beautiful house! And she gave me Lin!

Part 2 features Kathi; Part 1 featured Candy. I’m so fortunate to have had two friends like these two women, and I carry them with me each day.

Here’s the Gratitude Log again if you need it. I shared a couple days ago.

Do you ever buy clothes alike? Have you ever been present with a friend dying? What did you take away from it?

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