SANDUSKY - Mary Alice Rather, 86, a retired local service organization executive, affirmative action champion, and community leader, died of pneumonia Tuesday in Firelands Regional Medical Center here.
Mrs. Rather started at the Erie-Huron Community Action Commission in the 1960s as a bookkeeper and rose through the ranks, retiring in 1982 after 10 years as executive director.
A member of the Sandusky's Democratic Women's Club, Mrs. Rather was president of the Sandusky chapter of the NAACP from 1988 to 1990. She challenged area public agencies to comply with affirmative action mandates regarding recruiting, hiring, and promotion.
As CAC executive director, Mrs. Rather, who lived in Sandusky, established programs for recruiting, training, and hiring minorities. She helped establish nutrition, transportation, and co-op shopping programs for area seniors. She also initiated home rehabilitation, weatherization, and family planning programs in Erie County in the 1970s and '80s.
Over the years, Mrs. Rather also served on the boards of numerous service organizations.
"She [especially] enjoyed mentoring young people into leaders," her daughter, Deborah Grubbs, said.
"She was larger than life. She was very passionate. She was very dedicated. She made personal sacrifices to benefit the community. She was highly principled and stood on her principles."
A native of Van Buren, Ark., Mrs. Rather, whose maiden name was Hollowell, graduated from a Fort Smith, Ark., high school about 1937.
She later attended the former Arkansas Agricultural and Mechanical College in Monticello, which she left after her sophomore year in 1941 after marrying Ajaish "Butch" Rather. They moved to Sandusky in 1947. He died in 1967.
In retirement, Mrs. Rather continued to volunteer for the community and the church in many capacities. In her free time, she enjoyed reading history, playing Scrabble, and spending time with her grandchildren.
Mrs. Rather was a member of Ebenezer Baptist Church, where she was a founding member of the Busy Bee Club and a past treasurer.
Surviving are her sons, Donald and David, Sr.; daughters, Betty Rather and Deborah Grubbs; foster son, Adrian Squire; seven grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.
Services will be at 11 a.m. today in Ebenezer Baptist Church, Sandusky, where visitation will be after 9 a.m. today. Arrangements are by the Toft Funeral Home & Crematory, Sandusky.
The family suggests tributes to the Dorothy Rice Scholarship Fund at Ebenezer Baptist Church.