“When you think of the Merrimack Y, you think of Raj, like a spirit that moves through the Y” Jo-Anna (Shalom) Armandez-Lefeber shared this emotional tribute of her friend Raj, a long time Y member, who passed away this fall. Anyone who came in contact with Raj Jain at the Y will tell you that she was no stranger to anyone, often introducing herself and asking others to sit with her in “her spot” right outside the women’s locker room in the Merrimack branch. Friends like Peg, Shalom and Corinne shared that everyone loved Raj, she loved to socialize with others and that she called the Y her second home.
“She used to tell me that the YMCA was her home away from home. She loved to go there to exercise and be social, and just hang out. Raj was so loving and caring to everyone she met, and encouraged everyone to go to the Y.” her long-time friend Corinne Hitt shared. “There were no strangers to Raj, and she helped us all come to know each other. Raj gave of herself to everyone, and always offered to send food.” Corinne and Raj were friends over the span of a few decades, spending most Thursdays together ever since Raj experienced a stroke years ago. They would begin their day with one of Amy Doyle’s classes at the Y, then enjoy lunch and do household chores or errands for the remainder of their day.
Raj was talented in the kitchen, especially Indian food, and even taught a few cooking classes at the Y a few years ago. She loved to bring Indian food to everyone, including members and staff. Having been a Y member for over 20 years Raj visited often and was active in many classes even after she started not to feel well. Raj would have been 80 in December, but was unfortunately diagnosed with a brain tumor last fall and subsequently sought treatment. While away from her usual active lifestyle, Y friends would pay visits to her home, playing a game or two with her, or help with shopping and meals. As with most members of the Y, Raj’s relationships clearly expanded beyond the walls, and she made a great impact on those around her.
Shalom met Raj in a meditation class about four years ago and the two hit it off instantly. Shalom shared that the Y was a refuge for Raj and that she had found family here. When Raj became homebound Shalom was one of the many that visited her often.
Peg Miller met Raj in Tai Chi class and immediately connected with her, “Raj changed my whole life at the Y and she’s the first person I think of when I come to the Y.”
Y friends celebrated Raj’s life by having a small gathering at the Merrimack branch post Diwali, as Raj was Hindu. The group was able to come together and mourn, be together and share stories of how Raj inspired their lives. In Raj’s honor the memorial included a potluck so that everyone could share their favorite food.
It’s clear that Raj had a deep impact on those she met at the Y and none of them will soon forget her. She has become a presence woven throughout their day to day even though she is no longer here. Raj leaves behind her loving husband, two sons and three grandchildren who she spoke of often to Y friends. In addition, her close knit group of friends who became family will greatly miss her, but feel her presence every day.
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