Crystal Brown has a story to share — about family, a loving mother, baking and a terrible disease.
Brown, a current resident of Enid, owns and operates the bakery Mama’s Sweet Rolls Etc. Baking is a passion of hers, one which was passed down to her from her mother Patricia Ann Huey-Rafferty and her aunt Joyce Wessial, the former owner of the Kountry Kitchen restaurant in Altus.
Rafferty loved to bake and often dreamed of owning her own bakery. She loved to make others happy through her confections and, in a spirit befitting of a native Oklahoman, never met a person she didn’t like.
But in 2004, her dreams were to be put on hold. In April of that year, she was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or ALS — what is commonly known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease” — a devastating illness.
At the time of her diagnosis, Rafferty was one of only two people in Jackson County to have the disease. Initially, she and her family thought it was Multiple Sclerosis or MS. A trip to Oklahoma City disproved that diagnosis and later she discovered it was indeed ALS.
Rafferty never lost her spirit or her faith. She told her family to stay positive and never discuss the notion of her dying. She firmly believed she would beat the disease, even through the toughest times. ALS can be cruel and the illness eventually robbed her of all of her motor skills.
Her stepfather Greg Rafferty and Wessial were her primary caregivers, while Brown and her siblings also helped to their fullest extent.
Brown’s brother Cheyenne Weatherford would make the trip from Florida to help out, as well as her other brother Michael Rafferty, who at the time was serving in the Army.
They all did what they could to surround Rafferty with family, love and comfort, during those difficult days. In spite of Rafferty’s fighting spirit and her family’s unrelenting determination, ALS eventually claimed her life.
In August 2006, Rafferty lost her battle with ALS.
As Brown and her family will tell you, it was a sentence that her mother never deserved.
ALS is an atrocious, progressive neurodegenerative disease, which attacks the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. At the time of Rafferty’s diagnosis, her treatment consisted of shots regularly, along with doctor visits and other medications. As the disease progresses, it often leaves patients completely paralyzed. Research is still ongoing with this illness and breakthroughs are coming more frequently.
In 2014, the Ice Bucket Challenge took the internet by storm, raising more than $220 million for ALS research.
In late July of this year, the ALS Association announced that researchers identified a gene that contributes to the disease.
Still the battle against ALS is far from over.
Treatments are improving as the technology becomes more advanced. The survival rate has increased as well. For ways to help in the fight against ALS, contact Sarah Haupt at the Oklahoma chapter of the ALS Association at 800-269-1451.
This August will mark 10 years since Rafferty’s death. Brown and her family are having a memorial service at the Altus Cemetery at 3 p.m. Aug. 14. They would like to invite everyone to come attend this service and celebrate the life of a wonderful and loving mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.
All they ask is the next time in the bakery at Walmart or at a favorite confection store, have a brownie, put some extra sprinkles on it and think of Rafferty.
For more information about the memorial service contact Brown at 580-747-8438 or at [email protected]
Reach Chris Brown at [email protected]