Pam Rayer dies; helped raise awareness of ALS

01/12/2010 12:00 AM

01/12/2010 12:04 PM

Talk with almost anybody who knew Pam Rayer and they almost always mention that smile.

"It was just this beautiful, innocent smile," said her husband, Randall Rayer. "People ask me about being her caregiver and how you do that. But when you have somebody that begins each morning by turning their head toward you and smiling — that was all. The rest is easy."

Pamela "Pammy" Rayer, who co-owned Rayer's Bearden Stained Glass and Gifts with her husband, died Friday. Mrs. Rayer, 49, helped raise community awareness of Lou Gehrig's disease — a disease she was diagnosed with in January 2001. At that time, she was given two to five years to live.

A viewing will be 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday at Downing and Lahey West Services, 10515 Maple. Services will be 2 p.m. Friday at Westlink Christian Church, 2001 N. Maize Road.

She was born Pamela Wyatt on Nov. 3, 1960, in Hutchinson. She and her family moved to Manitou Springs, Colo., when she was in second grade. Not long after, she met her the man who would be her husband, Randy Rayer. He asked her to marry him when she was 17.

As newlyweds, they moved into a tiny, primitive farmhouse near Hutchinson. It had an outhouse and no heat — save a woodburning stove, he said.

It was 1978 and there were churches all across Kansas with stained-glass windows needing repair. Together, they opened a shop in Hutchinson as a base for their window restoration.

They had four daughters and eventually sold the business in Hutchinson, then purchased Bearden's Stained Glass in Wichita.

In 2001, while on a mission trip with her church, Westlink Christian, Mrs. Rayer noticed she had trouble operating a Skilsaw. At first, she thought it was carpal tunnel syndrome.

And then, there were other symptoms — she had difficulty writing her name.

She was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease. The disease, which attacks the nerve cells responsible for controlling muscles, weakened her arms and legs.

She became an advocate for disabled women when, in 2006, she appealed a hearing where she got Medicare to agree to pay for her injections of the hormone Lupron, which she received every three months. The alternative was a hysterectomy — risky given her health.

She was featured on "Hatteberg's People" and, over the years, became a friend of Larry Hatteberg, who has been asked to speak at her service.

Mrs. Rayer is survived by her husband, Randall; daughters, Tiffany Nelson of Goddard, Crystal and Ashley, both of Wichita, and April of the home; granddaughter, Addilyn Nelson; mother, J.J. Wyatt of Wichita; and brothers Eric Wyatt of Manitou Springs, Colo., and Brett Wyatt of Cascade, Colo.

Memorials may be made to the ALS Association, 3450 N. Rock Road, Suite 211, Wichita, KS 67226.

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