BY JACLYN ROSE –
At 12 years old, in her hometown of Ossining, New York, while listening to cowboy records, Rae Grasso decided she would one day move to Oklahoma or Wyoming. Fascinated with cowboys and the Western lifestyle, she is thrilled to have ended up just miles from the Oklahoma border.
Grasso was born in 1929 and was raised in New York before moving to Connecticut forty years ago. Around 8 years ago, after her husband passed away, some of her friends decided to take a trip to Tennessee and asked Grasso to join them. With no real responsibility left in Connecticut she took them up on the offer and they traveled south. With some extra time on their hands, the group traveled through Mena, up to Queen Wilhelmina State Park and down through Oklahoma on Route 4. Grasso instantly fell in love with the area, “the next day we had some time so I went to a couple real estate offices. I love it here. I love the farm land and the horses and the quietness. The town I moved from had a casino move in and it became so big I couldn’t see the stars. After 8 years, I still love it here.” Grasso jokes to her daughter, 4 grandchildren, 7 great grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren still in Connecticut that she “ran away.”
Grasso grew up in a different era and explained that she has seen a lot change in her lifetime. That, coupled with the vast diversity of her various careers, means that she has lived through some fascinating experiences. She began as a clerk in New York City before working several years in a mental institution. Next, she worked a few years at a college, then a prison system. She also had her broker’s license before she finally settled in to her favorite career, “I wanted to be a nurse but half through I quit and became a nurse’s aide. I worked at that until I retired. I said, ‘I’m out the door, not working anymore,’ but now I’m ready for another job,” she said with a laugh. “I love taking care of people. I loved taking care of my patients.”
Since moving to Polk County, Grasso has immersed herself into many different clubs and groups. “I support everyone: the writers, the painters, the crocheters, the knitters, and the theater. I love the fact that this area is promoting artistic endeavors. I can’t do it myself but I love what everyone else is doing!” Grasso was also involved in the Ouachita Little Theater’s Production, ‘The Life of Christ’, which she explained was one of the best experiences of her life. “It’s been said, ‘My heart feels too big for my body when I think of that,’ that is exactly how I feel about that production.”
Grasso also began taking the senior class at Rich Mountain Community College and took a course on Arkansas History so she could better understand the local area. She is also a member of the Master Gardeners, which she enjoys more than anything. “I love the flowers and the plants and volunteering, I love everything about that group.”
“God has been so good to me. Forty-one years ago I had a modified radical [cancer] and less than a year to live, look at me now. God lets me have fun. I think the key is to be an optimist, I’m a realist too, but I know that one second to another we don’t know what will happen. People who are optimists have more going for them. I don’t associate with pessimists. Your circle of friendship should be people who make you happy. Life is short. Be happy, enjoy life and stay healthy!”