Becky Rogowski: Memories of one very special lady

Hays Daily News
Becky Rogowski

I worship and work at my childhood church. We are small in number, but strong in relationship. When I mention “church family,” I truly mean the members are part of my extended family. I have extra grandmas and grandpas, extra moms and dads. As an adult member, I now have extra children, too.

A story frequently told is my special bond with Marian Layher. Marian passed away in 2020 at the age of 103. Yes, you read that right--she was 103. Our story began when I was a young girl of 4, learning the ins and outs of what I was expected to do at church. Marian was a grandmother at that point, and my own mother was a young mother learning the ropes.

Marian and I quickly became “friends.” She and I enjoyed coloring together. On one particular morning during Sunday School, Marian was coloring with me, and at some point in our conversing, I made it clear to her that she “needed to stay inside the lines.”

I was not a sassy child; in fact, I was rather shy and reserved. The comment seemed out of character for me. To anyone who knew Marian or her story and status in our community, she certainly didn’t need to “stay in the lines.”

My simple comment to her became about so much more than coloring inside the lines. Throughout our lives, we would come back to this comment and how its meaning grew with us as we both grew. She never forgot the little girl who reminded her to “stay in the lines,” and she never let me forget the importance of living my life within the lines, as well.

I moved away for college and started my family, but returned home when my youngest children were born. I was glad that all four of my girls got to enjoy knowing Marian and to have her influence on their lives, as well. And yes, they learned about the “crayon story.”

Marian was dedicated in her church attendance, and even well into her 90’s she was dedicated to maintaining an active lifestyle and working out at the same gym my family attended. She was a role model to us in so many ways. As Marian became older and more frail and her memory deteriorated, she would often repeat the “crayon story” three or more times on any given Sunday or on any given visit to her assisted living residence. We all delighted in hearing it, no matter how many times.

When Marian turned 100, I presented her with a “grown up” coloring book and a fresh set of colors. She was delighted, but to those who truly understood the significance, our “crayon story” had come full circle. We had both taught each other the meaning of staying inside the lines.

Her legacy lives on, not just within me, but within my own daughters, as well. Our lives are better because of Marian’s influence. She is missed.

Becky Rogowski is the Generations in Faith Together Coordinator at First Presbyterian Church in Hays.