Home is where the heart is and for Regina Harlow-Taber, Raymond has had her heart since she first laid eyes on the small town at 12 years old. Now she will represent the town as grand marshal in the 27th Annual Raymond Parade, which will begin at 11 a.m. in downtown Raymond, going past the front of the Raymond General Store, Saturday, April 20.
When Taber found out she had been selected to be the Raymond Parade grand marshal, she said she was both surprised and honored.
"We felt she should be honored," said Judy Leonard, Raymond Community Association vice president. "She's been a part of the community for most of her life. It was her time."
Born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Harlow-Taber had childhood dreams of California and so she was delighted when her and her mother, Gerry Dooley, and her younger sister, Connie, traveled to Raymond to visit Harlow-Taber's aunt in 1954.
"I thought California sounded like the most perfect place in the world and once I came here, I knew it," Harlow-Taber said.
Once the three arrived, they never left. Dooley got a job as a telephone operator at Sierra Telephone, which had its headquarters in Raymond at that time. Sierra Telephone owner Harry Baker even loaned Harlow-Taber her first horse.
Harlow-Taber spent her time riding horses, hiking the hills, walking through town all hours of the night and day and forming a church youth group. She and her friends would sit on the edge of the front porch of the Raymond General Store and dangle their feet off -- something that is now impossible because of the railing.
Jacque Nichelmann, Harlow-Taber's best friend since age 12, said there's just something special about this year's grand marshal. When Harlow-Taber came to Raymond, she moved into a house right down the street from Nichelmann and soon the two were best friends. In high school the two were on the girls athletic association and became badminton champions.
"Going to Raymond High was a really wonderful experience for me," Harlow-Taber said, adding she was involved in just about everything at the school -- from band to drama to student government.
Because the school was so small, Taber said she could get all the help she needed from teachers. One of those teachers still holds a special place in Harlow-Taber's heart -- Mrs. Marguerite Bossert, who taught English and journalism.
"She had more to do with my successes in life than anyone, besides family," Harlow-Taber said. "She taught me to write and that's helped me more than anything in jobs, college and my life."
Taber graduated with honors from Raymond High School in 1960. In 1965 she began working for the U.S. Postal Service in 1965 she became the Raymond postmaster. She eventually worked in Auberry, Orange Cove and Chowchilla, where she retired after 27 years of service.
During that time she was very active in the League of Postmasters and, at different times, served as treasurer, president and regional coordinator for 11 states. In 1988, she was chosen by the League of Postmasters as the California Postmaster of the Year, then later was named the National Postmaster of the Year.
Harlow-Taber was also involved in schools and was clerk for the Raymond School Board for nine years and clerk on the original Yosemite High School Board for five years.
In 1990, at age 50, Harlow-Taber decided to go back to school and attended Merced College. Seven years later she graduated with honors and became a drug and alcohol counselor.
After becoming a drug and alcohol counselor, she worked at the Central Valley Addiction Center in Merced, then at Walden House at Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla. Later, she began working at Kings View -- a drunk driving counseling program -- in Sonora, Oakhurst and Mariposa.
To add to Harlow-Taber's list of achievements, she is also a cancer survivor.
During Harlow-Taber's career, she lived in Raymond off and on for a total of 30 years but it always called her back.
"Raymond is like a giant family," Taber said. "We all watch out for one another. It's just a great place to live and I came back because this is home."
Besides it feeling like home, it's also full of family -- four generations of family. Harlow-Taber's two children, Buzzy and Rhonda Harlow, both live in Raymond along with 11 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Taber, now a widow, was married twice -- first to Ed Harlow for 19 years, then Richard Tabor for 21 years.
Throughout the years, Harlow-Taber and Nichelmann remained best friends -- they were even in each other's weddings.
"We've always been there for each other," Nichelmann said. "She's someone you can depend on and if you need a friend, all you have to do is call her."