Spotlight on Seniors

Marilyn Rabura, 1948.

Marilyn Rabura, 1948.

Marilyn Rabura on Lopez in 2007. Contributed photos

Two hundred pieces of bubble gum arrived in Germany for the children in a refugee camp where Marilyn Rabura worked. They were sent by her father. “We all blew bubbles,” she said.

Marilyn’s love of Lopez Island began before she started school when her family visited her father’s relatives, George and Mary Gorham, who had moved to the island in 1916. “Mary was one of the founders of the Lopez Garden Club,” Marilyn said. “I attended whenever I could.”

“My father, Charles Seefield, graduated in 1913 from the first class at Queen Anne High School. I attended school there too, sang with the a cappella choir and was editor of the school newspaper. My friends often moved away and I wanted so much to try this too. I’ve traveled most of my life since I grew up,” Marilyn said.

She attended the University of Washington where she was President of Wesley Club and invited to join honor societies, Phi Beta Kappa and Mortar Board. As President of the Campus Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), she was sent to New York to study at Columbia University during the summer of 1945. “I had never been anywhere,” Marilyn said. She and a friend traveled by train through Canada, stopping at sites along the way. “We stayed in cheap places, ate in fancy restaurants and really thought we were living.” On the train, they met Dale Carnegie of How to Win Friends and Influence People fame and he encouraged them to stay at Lake Louise. Both girls liked to ride horseback but in days when girls wore dresses, they had to borrow jeans from the hotel bellboys for the venture. “It was thrilling to gallop past the hotel at five in the morning.”

While in New York, they were invited to a formal hop at the Naval Academy by boys they knew from the UW. “The iron blew up while I was pressing my dress. I had a terrible burn,” Marilyn said. “The doctor said I wasn’t to go to Annapolis. So I went. I wore a long white glove on one hand and a big bandage on the other.”

“I wanted to do something that mattered in the world,” Marilyn said. Active in the University YWCA, she represented the northwest region at the first postwar World Conference of Christian Youth in Oslo and three other youth conferences held in Europe during the summer of 1947. This honor required her to visit many U.S. colleges, report what she had learned and encourage students to raise money for war damaged projects.

In 1948, Marilyn worked with the American Friends Service Committee in a program coordinated with the International Refugee Organization in Germany. “There were 12 million refugees uprooted after World War II. Every place you went, you saw awful ruins. It was dreadful.” Refugees were from east bloc countries behind the Iron Curtain and lived in converted Army camps. She helped get people ready to immigrate by teaching English and working with traumatized children who may have lost family members or were bombed out of their homes. “They loved the bubble gum,” Marilyn said. She worked in Mittenwald, located in the Alps south of Munich where she lived for over two years, and stayed with a German family. “That’s the best way to really learn a language.”

Marilyn returned to Germany in 1953 where she developed pilot projects to help integrate remaining refugee families into German communities. She set up kindergartens where the children learned German and the mothers attended monthly meetings. After two years, each program’s sponsorship was turned over to a local organization. They still exist today.

During this stint she met her husband, Horst, whose major work was assisting German refugees to find employment. “I appreciated the way he worked with children,” Marilyn said. They were married in Germany in 1954.

The couple moved to Seattle where they raised their two sons and bought vacation property on Lopez. Horst taught at Queen Anne High School and the University until he retired in 1988. Marilyn taught German at Shoreline Community College for over 27 years and retired in 1991. “My career was mostly fun,” she said with a typical tilt of the head and a smile that flickers between curiosity and amusement.

Marilyn and her family visited Germany frequently. Her sons attended school during one two-year stay. She took groups of students for summer courses from 1979 to 1988 and treasures memories of hiking, skiing, and having long-time friends there. Other travels added to those journeys were a joyful pleasure for her.

Marilyn moved to Lopez fulltime in 1996 and has enjoyed ecumenical singing, the Birthday Club, hospice volunteering, her book club and the Center’s programs. “When I was little, I hid in the barn hoping I didn’t have to leave, and thought I would live here someday. I am grateful that my wishes came true.”