You knew her as Mrs. Marianna Raftopoulos, a Moffat County Commissioner, Colorado Division of Wildlife commissioner and a prominent woman of the West.
I knew her as Mom, best friend, confidant, and sometimes “Mert,” the nickname given to her as an eager child.
I could recount all the impressive boards and organizations she was a part of, that she was the first female county commissioner, helped put Craig on the map via telecommunications, or in her more recreational moments, was the Moffat County High School Bulldogs biggest fan.
But many of you already know this because maybe you were her co-worker, helped her campaign door-to-door years ago, served as a board member with her, or maybe you just met her in line at the grocery store. Or maybe you never met my mother, you just heard about her and sometimes that’s just as touching when you have a contagious spirit like my mom.
How do you put a woman with so many incredible accomplishments and such a full life into one piece of writing? How do I capture her essence as one of the most impactful women of the West into words?
For her, at the end of the day, it wasn’t her accomplishments that made her feel content, but the way each of them exuded a passion within her that put a smile on her face. While her accomplishments made her stand out in the community, it was what she loved behind the scenes that made her most unforgettable.
She came to me in a dream the other night, wearing a red three-piece suit, light brown bob slightly tucked under at the ends, gold cross hanging elegantly across her neck, perfectly manicured nails and that unforgettable smile.
She doesn’t make these appearances often, only when she wants to catch up and it just so happened to be when I was writing this tribute about her.
When I didn’t know how, she told me where to begin.
In my dream, she rested at the foot of my bed, hands crossed across her lap, and we talked. We talked about boys because that was her favorite subject, and the news of politics, which was a close second. We talked about the future and our favorite stories, and most importantly, we talked about family.
“How are the boys, how is your Dad, and Missy, how are you?” she asked.
Then we cried.
We always cried during our late night conversations, only to wipe away our tears and move forward a little bit stronger.
Even in a dream she could warm up the room, calm my tensions, clear my head and remind me of why we will never be able to forget her exuding light.
I see her light within the people she touched whenever they speak of her.
When my mom asked someone how they were doing, it wasn’t just a remark made out of courtesy. It was genuine and unique for each person that she encountered.
It was hard to simply say “good” in response to her because she had a way of making you want to disclose the truth. There was no getting past a long, in-depth discussion, hug, smile, or at least a fresh cup of coffee.
She never forgot your name, where your kids went to college and their majors, the health of your parents, or the last conversation you had. Just like she made people feel welcome in her home, she made you feel welcome in every conversation.
Even though she had at least 10 places to be at one time — basketball games, board meetings, team dinners, conferences — no time was more important to her than time spent talking with the person in front of her.
To me, this is what made her unique.
The deadlines and appointments could wait, but relationships took time and attention. To her, being successful wasn’t measured by awards or accolades — it was measured by people she inspired and enlightened.
Even if you didn’t vote for her or disagreed with her beliefs, you always respected her. There was no denying the way she made you think, her intelligence, her strength. Most of all, you could never walk away without feeling enlightened and inspired by her.
What made her one of the most influential women in Northwest Colorado? Her spirit.
She could light up a room within seconds of entering and had the same effect outside on a sunny day. Even from that hilltop where she lies now, she continues to light up our community.
Whenever I want to feel her light, I dream, and I dream big.
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