Rayo Howard is a world traveler with roots in Boaz, Missouri, and at 96 years young, she has stories to tell. In 1960, she and her late husband Andrew, followed an intinerary that circled the globe and now she wants to share her experiences with the residents of Christian County through a generous gift to the Christian County Museum and Historical Society.
Her gift not only includes mementos, videos and photographs collected since her birth in 1911, but also a $50,000 donation for improvements to the current building and her life story.
“Never has a gift of that size been given to the Historical Society,” John Nixon, of the Christian County Museum and History Society and Finley River Community Foundation, said.
When she approached Nixon and asked if the Historical Society could use her items, including some from the site of the first civil war in Missouri at Wilson’s Creek, space was an issue. Not to be deterred, Rayo paid to have the building’s kitchen renovated and supplied the display cases needed to showcase her collection.
Rayo soon recognized that her artifacts could not be accommodated in that space.
“The room she is using right now is about 9 by 18 feet, and we still have things in boxes that we haven’t been able to put out,” Nixon said.
And Rayo isn’t finished compiling items to give.
In her room at the Cambridge, there are boxes of old film and scrapbooks that she views under a camera attached to a television that allows her to magnify the images.
“My eyes and ears are not as good as what they used to be, but what I still have are my memories and I like telling my stories,” Rayo said.
Rayo enjoys sharing with others what history has taught her. In fact, Rayo has saved personal letters between Andrew and herself when he was in the service for 4 years and traveling around the country. This anecdotal history has been archived at the Library of Congress.
“I treasure everything that I have learned, all of the stories that I can tell,” Rayo said. “To pick just one would be too difficult.”
So Rayo is writing a book to help convey her memories.
The stories begin with her childhood, where she recalls hiding under the church pews as a tornado hit the structure to managing her family’s bank when all of the men were either unable to work or at war.
At 96, Rayo is still independent in spite of failing eyesight and hearing and visits a doctor once a year for a checkup.
“The only way to truly understand history is to hear it from someone who has lived it,” Rayo said. “I hope my experiences are able to teach others how to do things.”
Rayo continues to live the way she was brought up as a child.
“I was taught to be responsible and to want to help everyone,” Howard said. “I think I am still living that way today.”