Debbie Raisley, 59, loses cancer battle, Pampered Pelican dream lives on
January 26, 2013
Some business dreams become reality only after years of planning, endless hours in meetings and exhausting perseverance.
But Debbie Raisley’s goal of building her own clothing boutique — Pampered Pelican — came to fruition weeks after she announced the plan while traveling down Weld County Road 74 on the way home from breakfast in 2006. The initial dismay of family and friends shifted to undying support from everyone — relatives and community — ultimately turning her quaint clothing boutique into what many now consider a Windsor mainstay.
As her husband recounted at his Windsor home, it was the perfect hobby for a woman who liked shopping and — more importantly — loved people.
“She was determined,” Jerry Raisley said, surrounded by nearly a dozen family and close friends. “It was something she loved to do. She would work all day and all night just because she loved to do it. That’s how it was.”
And that’s how it was until the end.
Debra Susan Raisley, passed way Jan. 11 after a long battle and complications from multiple myeloma — a cancer that ravages plasma cells in the bone marrow and can spread throughout the body. She was 59.
While the future remains uncertain for her loved ones, Debbie’s hobby-turned-dream on the corner of 7th and Main Streets will remain alive under Jerry’s control. Though he admits to a limited breadth of fashion expertise — usually opting instead for house painting — he is hopeful the community support built upon the foundation of his wife’s infectious personality will be enough to keep the shop running long into the future.
“It’s going to be business as usual,” Jerry said, adding that it’s what his wife would have wanted. “I’m going to keep her dream open.”
Debbie was a dispatcher for 20 years at U.S. West phone company until 1994. At a union meeting she met Jerry, who was working then as a company repairman based in Greeley. After 1994, she worked briefly as a travel agent and later with Jerry on a newly formed family business — J&D Painting, short for Jerry and Debbie.
From elk hunting to snowmobiling to just lounging around at home, family and friends agreed the couple did everything together.
“There was never a Jerry or just a Debbie,” said their son, Travis. “It was always Jerry and Debbie. It didn’t matter what it was.”
Just weeks after that drive down the county road where she sprung the idea of a clothing boutique, the dream became a reality on the western edge of town, near King Soopers. After a five-year stint at the location that was marred by the national economic downturn and slow sales, opportunity arose to bring the shop downtown — a chance she leapt at.
The vibrant purple and yellow walls brought new life to an old building used previously as a car lot or gas station. The posh carpeting went in, the clothing racks went up and the business took on new life.
“She had such a vision,” said Sylvia Thomas, a longtime friend who helped Debbie with the business by picking up shifts or pricing jewelry late into the night. “She really wanted to see downtown come alive again.”
Just as the Pampered Pelican took on new life, Debbie’s own began to slowly wane.
It started with a fleeting pain in her forearm in September, 2010 — a pain that turned into much more.
And so began a series of lengthy hospital stays, ranging from a single-day trips to Denver to multiple-month stretches, stem-cell treatments and worry — for Debbie and for Jerry, who stayed by her side every step of the way. The hospital visits were so intensive, venturing to a nearby shopping center became overwhelming.
“The entire time, it didn’t matter what was going on, dad stuck by her side,” Travis said. “He never left. He never complained.”
After each series of treatments, she would return to work, doing as much as she could despite the circumstances. It was more than just a devotion to the store at that point, though. Recognizing there was an opportunity to help others, she hosted a blood drive that helped determine eligibility for potential bone marrow donors. An event that normally enlists a dozen candidates saw about 50 added to the list, her family recalled.
“Everything was looking good,” Jerry remembered. “It really was. It wasn’t great, but it was looking better.”
A recent bout with influenza coupled with an already weakened immune system took the final toll. Added to that was a slew of medications — gallon-sized bag fulls — that compromised so much of her body, leading ultimately to a blood buildup near her brain.
As doctors raced to relieve the pressure that Friday morning, Jerry knew something wasn’t right.
He knew there would be no more hospital stays — no more camping out by her bed in the intensive care unit.
He knew it was the end.
Despite the struggles, even toward the end, Debbie always put her family and friends’ lives ahead of her own. Most recently, her daughter Becky remembered Debbie’s calls to the grandchildren, anxious to know how they spent their Christmas money and how their vacations were going.
“She never complained. She wanted to keep being fed life, even though she wasn’t able to be with us,” Becky said. “She lived full speed. She loved 100 percent. She was the most reliable, dependable person in every aspect of her life.”
Memorial services for Debbie were held Thursday — what would have been her and Jerry’s 29th wedding anniversary — at Timberline Windsor Church, where hundreds from across the community and country paid their final respects.
Debbie is survived by her husband, Jerry; parents Bob and Betty Ipsen; step grandmother Francine Van Ortwick; children Brian, Jeff, Becky, Eric and Travis; numerous grandchildren, siblings, nieces and nephews.
Perhaps most notably, she is remembered by hundreds of friends across Windsor and around the world.
“Everybody who has met her has loved her,” said Johni English, a longtime friend and employee at the Pampered Pelican. “She’s always been a giving, giving person. She absolutely would not take from anybody. She’s always been a giver.”