Slain Howard woman eulogized as earthly angel Despite troubles, Raras 'had time for all her friends'

November 24, 1998|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

Sara J. Williamson Raras, the 35-year-old Elkridge mother who was slain a week ago in her home, was remembered yesterday as an earthly angel, someone who would do anything for a friend.

About 150 friends and co-workers from the National Security Agency attended a memorial Mass at St. Augustine's Catholic Church in Elkridge.

The Rev. Gerard Bowen read their testimonials, eliciting tears and sniffling as he recalled a mother who leaves a 1-year-old son.

"She was just different, a whole different type of person," Bowen said after the service. "Those types of people, they are a whole different order of creation."

Raras was found stabbed to death Nov. 15 in her Elkridge family room -- a slaying that teams of detectives are trying to solve.

Police declined yesterday to discuss the status of the investigation.

But yesterday wasn't about the case. It was about remembering a friend.

Men in military uniform, families with small children, a woman sitting alone in a pew with a handkerchief never far from tear-streaked cheeks, they were all drawn by a mother who, one mourner said, "maintained a lightness of pastel colors" and "was a bright spot in her surroundings."

They remembered Raras struggling to divorce her husband while fighting for the custody of her son, Lorenzo Williamson "Will" Raras, who was visiting his father the weekend of the slaying.

In court records, Raras alleged abuse by her husband, Lorenzo D. Raras. He denied those allegations in sworn affidavits.

Even with divorce proceedings scheduled Dec. 3, mourners said, Raras never neglected her friends or son.

"Sara still had time for all her friends, even with all the turmoil going on in her life," a friend wrote.

"She would ask if you were OK, do you need any help? Sara was a wonderful mother; she gave her all to the very last day."

Raras was born at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida, then moved with her family to Albuquerque, N.M., before graduating from high school in 1980. She earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics with a minor in English from New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology.

Eventually, she moved to Maryland with her first husband and took a job at NSA near Fort Meade.

After a divorce, she began to study for a master's at the John's Hopkins University, graduating with a degree in operations research in 1994, the same year she married her current husband.

Raras' husband did not attend the Mass. Her sister and parents, who all live out of state, could not attend.

Raras was buried last week by her family in Alabama.

But Raras' sister, Nancy Lewis, wrote a letter to the assembled. "Her goals in life were simple," Bowen read.

"She sought happiness for every family member and friend. We were all her hobby -- she wanted to help each of us to be better, to do more, to feel more, to love more. She was a beacon in this dark world."

Yet, even with fond memories, friends are still trying to make sense of the senseless.

"You take a way a whole lifetime of what they might have accomplished," Bowen said. "The peacemakers, the ones under great stress and strain, they are often the ones who seem to get murdered."

Family members request that donations be made to the Howard County Domestic Violence Center at 8950 Route 108, Suite 116, Columbia 21045. Information: 410-997-0304.

'Special and rare' person

Here are excerpts from what Sara J. Williamson Raras' friends and family wrote in testimonials read by the Rev. Gerard Bowen yesterday at St. Augustine's Catholic Church in Elkridge.

From her sister, Nancy Lewis:

"Sara was a beautiful, special and rare person. She knew how to give unconditional and real love, and if she knew you, she most likely loved you deeply. There are so many examples of Sara's generosity and love.

"From the Sunday mornings she drove three hours to pick up a blind friend, the pies and muffins she made us when we were sick or down, the phone calls she made to cheer us up, the smiles and hugs of comfort she gave us all freely, the mugs of coffee she always had waiting -- Sara was so giving.

"Each day with her son, Will, was an adventure for the two of them. She delighted in each new step he took in life and cared deeply about his future. She will be watching over him from heaven now -- still delighting in his progress through life.

"Sara was a wonderful and sweet spirit. If you are here today, I know she touched you in her life or her death. Luckily we can all find peace in the knowledge that Sara found the importance of life. She went home successful and she is now standing up above wishing the same peace and success for each of us."

From a friend, Barb:

"There is one kind and generous act of Sara's that I think about often. Sara and I worked together in an office in which I was very unhappy. After she had changed offices, she came to me and asked if I would be interested in going to this new office, too.

"There wasn't a position available at the time, but Sara went out of her way to influence her new management to hire me. Because Sara was such a hard worker, full of integrity and a great asset, she was able to convince her management that I would be an asset as well. She was one of the most altruistic people I have ever known."

Pub Date: 11/24/98

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