Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
It’s hard for me to think of a nicer, kinder or more cheerful person than Nohema Graber. Though I did not grow up in Fairfield and did not have Mrs. Graber as a teacher, the two of us became close over the years. She and my wife carpooled to Ottumwa when my wife was student teaching there. She always asked my wife about how her family was doing back home in Sri Lanka.
I think I first met her probably seven or eight years ago when I wrote an article about her son Jared and the tremendous gains he made in reading with the help of a tutor. A few years later, through pure happenstance I had occasion to profile another member of the Graber family, Nohema’s daughter named Nohema Marie, who had just returned from a year of studying abroad in Brazil.
Nohema and I had a special connection through Mexico, which was her home country and also where I studied abroad during my senior year of college. We had such fun reminiscing about the food and culture. True to her nature as a teacher, Nohema encouraged me to keep up my Spanish, which I practiced with her at every opportunity. I thought it would be so fun to come to her class and give a presentation on my time in Mexico and all the Mexican friends I made, showing her students what they could achieve with hard work.
A couple of years ago, I decided to join the Catholic Church, and I needed to find a sponsor who was already a member of the church. Nohema was the first person I thought of. She gladly accepted my request, and for almost a year, we spent every Monday night together in religious education classes. In fact, Nohema was so beloved that another person who wanted to join the church had asked her to be her sponsor, too! That’s how I got to know Yenifer Jimenez Garcia.
One time, the three of us carpooled to St. Patrick Church in Iowa City, and we spoke Spanish the whole time. Nohema was even nice enough to (gently) point out my mistakes, because she cared about my improvement, and I loved it. It occurred to me that I hadn’t spoken Spanish that much since I lived in Mexico 12 years earlier.
As anyone at the church can attest, Nohema was a devout Catholic. She attended Mass every day, including Saturday and Sunday, so we were sure to see her no matter which one we chose. She loved seeing our daughter, Nayeli.
“¡Qué hermosa!” she exclaimed when she saw our little one in the stroller.
One of our daughter’s favorite stuffed animals is a purple bear that Nohema gave her. Now that Nohema is no longer with us in this world, it is a gift we will cherish forever.