Saturday, October 01, 2005

10/01/05 The All-American Girl Part II

Getting to Know You

I want you to know Maura as I do. To know her is to love her, and in loving her, you will want her found, too.

The following is an excerpt from Maura’s Adopt a Missing Person bio, as written by her future mother-in-law, Sharon. These personal bios are included with every button on the program and mailed to caring persons who pledge to wear Maura’s photo button and share her story.

“Maura Murray was born May 4, 1982 in eastern Massachusetts. From a very young age, she showed outstanding athletic ability. Her father Fred Murray encouraged her and often coached her in youth leagues including basketball, softball, and soccer. Maura also loved to hike and run. Although soccer was her best sport, she loved basketball and running the most. As a freshman in high school, Maura was the starting point guard on the high school varsity team. During her sophomore year, she gave up all sports to concentrate on running track and cross country. Maura set and still holds many running records in all levels of competition in the state of Massachusetts.

Before Maura’s disappearance, she also excelled in academics. In 2000, she graduated fourth in her high school class. She scored 1420 out of 1600 on her college SAT entrance exam, and was accepted as a cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Maura spent 1 ½ years at West Point majoring in Chemical Engineering before she transferred to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst to pursue a major in Nursing. At both West Point and U Mass, Maura excelled in the class room and on the cross country courses and track fields. She was on the Dean’s List each semester until her disappearance.

Maura has a bubbly and vibrant personality. She loves life as evidenced by her constant smile which is framed by her amazing dimples and dazzling white teeth. Maura is a quiet person for the most part, but she has a wonderful sense of humor and is known for her kind wit and sarcastic comebacks. Smiling and quiet laughter are as natural to Maura as breathing.

Thank you notes from Maura were received by anyone who offered to her the slightest kindness. She enjoyed cards decorated with cows. She often would send a ‘Birthday Card’ or a ‘Thinking of You Card’ with a picture of a cow and change the wording to make a rhyme to offer her appreciation. A thank you from Maura is always a treat.

Maura’s favorite color is blue. She likes fruit and French-Vanilla Coffee for breakfast. She appreciates simple things like Gala or Fuji Apples or a “just ripe banana”. A large salad with all of the fixings is Maura’s choice for lunch or dinner each day. She loves to try new recipes and of course is expert in salad making.

Before her disappearance on Monday, February 9, 2004, Maura was looking forward to receiving her engagement ring in the summer of 2004, graduating from Nursing School in May 2005, and getting married in the summer or fall of 2005. She had already arranged for a summer job beginning in June 2004 in a hospital in Oklahoma to be near her boyfriend who is a lieutenant in the United States Army.

Maura is truly the All-American Girl. She is not only beautiful, but she is also kind, funny, smart, optimistic, motivated, hard working, loyal and loving.”

Sharon shares one of her favorite memories of Maura: “This comes to mind EACH time that I look out my kitchen window: Maura usually spent 3-6 weeks with us in the summer. We own several acres and it seems that even with a small tractor, there is always a need for some mowing. The first summer Maura was here, she softly said to my husband in her Boston accent, "I see you have a sitting mower. I have always wanted to ride a sitting mower."

My husband managed not to laugh at the "sitting mower" comment and asked her if she would like him to teach her. She was thrilled. Now, the back 2-3 acres have never been graded; only a few years ago they were used to grow corn or beans, so the ground has lots of rolling mounds instead of being smooth. Bill and I sat on the patio and watched as Maura literally flopped like a little rag doll on the tractor with the mowing blades stopping each time gravity lifted her off of the seat (the tractor has a safety feature that stops the mower if no one is sitting on the seat). Bill made the adjustment so the tractor would mow and Maura would spend hours in low gear doing our work and then she would THANK us for it.”

In an irony that must be very painful, Sharon and her family received a final letter from Maura that was a thank you for her Christmas Gifts, which included fur lined gloves, and an AAA Membership. Those items were left in her abandoned car on the very cold night Maura disappeared.

Sharon’s daughter, Crystal, was looking forward to having Maura as her sister-in-law. They shared many hours together. Crystal observed and admired Maura’s always positive demeanor.

Maura’s friend Kate, wants us to know Maura, too: “Maura is a person that gets along with everyone. She is outgoing and smart. She always makes you feel better if you're down, and will always find a way to make you laugh at any situation, no matter how bad it may seem.

There's a song, by Switchfoot…..the main line of the chorus is "We were meant to live for so much more." I think of Maura whenever I hear the song because I know that she is meant for success wherever she is because she puts everything into what she does.”

Another friend, Nast, tells us of Maura’s humility: “Maura is my friend. She was my teammate. She is an athlete - like me. She is competitive - like me. She used to get really nervous before every race - just like me. She used to do people's hair on the bus rides to track meets - just like me - and then I would do hers. She was quiet, shy, but fierce on the track. She laughed at all of my lame jokes and never noticed when the boys noticed her. And she could dance! Boys had crushes on her and despite being on a competitive women's track team where sometimes girls' egos run high, Maura did not show not one bit....NOT even the slightest bit of an ego. She was so darn humble it hurt. Not one person I know disliked her. She is such a great role model.”

Maura and the Rausches grew closer as her relationship with Billy blossomed:

“Maura and my, son Billy, had plans to marry in Sept of 2005 and to honeymoon in her favorite of all places: The White Mountains of NH. She told me that at some point she just wanted to "have lots of little Billies and grow old with Bill." Before, the little Billies, she planned on a career in the medical field. She was in UMass BA nursing program when she went missing, but she planned on pursuing additional advanced degrees after her marriage.

Because Maura lived in MA and I live in OH, we were never together without her being with Billy. Therefore, we did some cooking and cleaning together. I have some wonderful memories of those times, but usually our time was spent with at least my son and very often with many more of our family.

When I picture Maura, I see the look on her face each and every time that she looked at my son. I saw it the first time my son introduced her to me. How could any mother fail to care for someone who loved her son so deeply and unconditionally? Over the years, the look of love continued to deepen and grow. It had taken on a special glow in Jan 2004 when I last saw her.”

The hope for the formal union for these two came to a crashing halt on Monday, February 9th. This is the last email correspondence from Maura to Billy:

Date: Mon, 09 Feb 2004 13:00:06 -0500
Subject: hey hey
To: "Bill Rausch"

I love you more stud
I got your messages, but honestly, i didn't feel like talking to much of anyone, i promise to call today though
love you

How did this cherished All-American girl then disappear from the lives of those who loved her?

Maura’s story will continue on Sunday.


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