On Wednesday, May 19, 2021, at around midnight, Mary Floreeda Harper Rice, died peacefully after spending the day with her husband and daughters. She was 95 years old and lived in Arcata.

Mary was born on August 30, 1925 in Muskogee, Okla., to William Blaney Harper and Mattie B Harper. Her father died when she was two years old, so she and her three siblings were raised by her mother, Mattie. Mary suffered from pneumonia when she was young and spent nearly a year in bed. The damage caused by her illness made her lungs fragile throughout her life. Though Mary had a happy childhood, life was hard for the Harpers. Mattie worked as a hospital nurses aide, and a “home baker” to support her four children through the challenging years of the Great Depression.

Mary would probably tell you that one of the most important days of her life was during her senior year in high school on November 14, 1943. This was the day she met her handsome Air Force pilot, Raymond. The story goes; that on that significant Sunday morning, Mary and Ray spied each other in church. Ray and his fellow flyers knew that church services were the best place to meet “nice” girls. Ray would say that Mary had a ‘come hither’ look in her eyes, but their meeting would have to wait a little longer. It wasn’t until later that day that they actually met, when Mary and her girlfriend were heading to the USO where Ray and his buddy were “hanging out.” Mary and Ray were married nine months later, on August 8, 1944.

Mary was, first and foremost, a wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. However, during the early years of her life, she had jobs working for several phone companies, a newspaper, and at a studio colorizing photographs. When her girls were older she started her longest and most rewarding job as a kindergarten teacher-aide, working at the Jacoby Creek School for many years. She was a natural with children and threw herself into her career for 30 years.

Mary was active in Girl Scout leadership, PTA, and any booster clubs that supported her girls’ childhood endeavors. She continued to be an enthusiastic cheerleader of her daughters’ activities throughout her life. Likewise, she supported Ray, whether it was working with him on a remote fire lookout tower or consenting to join one of HIS many backpacking trips into the mountains of California. She became a reluctant traveler following Ray to foreign lands while he worked as a research hydrologist, and taking many trips to Austria to visit her daughter, Barbara (Rabia) and her grandchildren.

Her faith was important to her and she was an active member of the Arcata United Methodist Church. Mary enjoyed sewing, gardening, taking walks with her friends, and daily “Wine Time” with her friends, Debbie Clancy and Mary McNelis. She was a member of the “Crafty Ladies Group,” several Bridge groups, including the “Saturday Night Bridge Group” and a regular borrower at the Arcata Library.

The Rice’s moved to Arcata in 1973 and they built their ‘forever’ home at 44 Robert Court, East — “44” being the imperative part. Mary and Ray were romantic about the year they married from their first day until their last day together. They chose their address number when they built their home, they had license plates on their cars of “4T4” and “4D4” and they never missed an opportunity to celebrate their love for one another. Their 76+ years together was truly a great love story.

Mary is preceded in death by her siblings; Joe Harper, Don Harper and Alma Browning, and her grandson, Graham McCord. She is survived by her husband, Raymond, her three daughters; Marla Dickinson (Frank), Claudia Kostyshak (Geoff), and Barbara Rabia O’Loren. Also, her grandchildren; Benjamin Van Dale (Erin), Hans Van Dale (Kate) (and their father – Rob Van Dale), Matthaus Palzer (Annelies), Florian Palzer, Claire Palzer (and their father – Gerhard Palzer), Shayan Keshanrousta (Maia) and her six great grandchildren, Simon Palzer, Laura Palzer, Calvin Van Dale, Ivy Van Dale, Duke Van Dale, and Nico Van Dale. And lastly, her beloved cat, Beezee.

A celebration of life will be held at the Arcata United Methodist Church on July 17, 2021, at 1 p.m. Memorial donations can be made to Arcata Library, the Sequoia Humane Society, Jacoby Creek School, or the United Methodist Church.

Our special thanks to the staff of Timber Ridge and Timber Ridge- Renaissance in McKinleyville, as well as, Hospice of Humboldt for their compassionate care of Mary during her final months.


The obituary above was submitted on behalf of Mary Rice’s loved ones. The Lost Coast Outpost runs obituaries of Humboldt County residents at no charge. See guidelines here.