Feb. 5, 1930 — Sept. 6, 2019
After graduating from Batavia High School in 1947, Shirley M. Nevinger enrolled in the University at Buffalo to study chemistry and biology. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in those subjects in 1952, at a time when few women studied the sciences.
"I once asked her what her parents thought of her pursuit of higher education," said her daughter, Linda Rumbold. "She told me they really didn't understand it, why would she want to study science?"
She became a licensed lab technician and a year later married Dr. Donald Rachow, a physician who had been her classmate at UB. She worked in his office until they adopted the first of their three children.
Mrs. Rachow died Sept. 6 in Buffalo General Medical Center after she was injured in a fall on Aug. 20, 2019. The Amherst resident was 89.
She was born Feb. 5, 1930, in Batavia, the middle child and only daughter of Kenneth and Gladys Nevinger. She graduated from Batavia High School in 1947 before attending the University at Buffalo.
She worked as a licensed lab technologist in the old E.J. Meyer Memorial Hospital, the forerunner to Erie County Medical Center.
She had gone on one date with Donald Rachow while they were both students at UB. When they enrolled in a course together a year later, the relationship blossomed, and they married on Oct. 3, 1953.
Mrs. Rachow worked as a lab technician and receptionist in the office of her husband, who was an internist and endocrinologist in Snyder, until they adopted their first child, Carol, in 1958. They later adopted two more children, her daughter said.
Through the adoptions, the Rachows gave their children "a family that they may have never known, a life full of good times and sometimes bad, but a family that was defined by doing the right thing for others," her daughter Linda said.
Mrs. Rachow was active in her church. Raised Baptist, she converted to Lutheranism before she married, and joined the Amherst Lutheran Church in 1959. She taught Sunday school and assisted with meals for after-school religious instruction, her daughter said.
She began to volunteer with the agency from which she adopted her children when they were in grade school. Her daughter recalled her taking her children along to visit a family with five children that she was assisting in Buffalo.
Starting in 2002, Mrs. Rachow put in more than 3,000 hours of volunteer work at Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, working at the front desk and playing the piano near the surgical waiting room. She volunteered at her last shift May 22 and she planned to return before her fall, her daughter said.
She also played piano for 15 years in the lobby of Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and for the residents of the dementia unit at the GreenFields Manor in Lancaster for more than 10 years, her daughter said.
She loved music and playing the organ, piano and guitar. She enjoyed attending performances of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and going to Artpark, MusicalFare Theatre, Studio Arena, Shea's Performing Arts Center and Radio City Music Hall.
The Rachows traveled extensively, visiting Hong Kong, Japan, Egypt, India, Africa, Brazil, Mexico, Barbados, the Swiss Alps, the Panama Canal, the Mediterranean and Russia. She loved to visit Florida, and the couple often visited Little Dix Bay in the British Virgin Islands. In 2013, 60 years after their honeymoon at Split Rock in the Poconos, the Rachows went there for a second honeymoon.
She enjoyed get-togethers at the family property on Conesus Lake, where "Aunt Shirley" welcomed the extended family with music, games, laughter and good cooking, sometimes from family recipes.
"Modest and private, she underestimated just what her effect was on this world and she greatly underestimated her effect on our lives," her daughter said.
Her oldest daughter, Carol Tokarik, died in March 2005.
In addition to her daughter Linda Rumbold and husband, Donald, Mrs. Rachow is survived by her son Steve; her brother, Derryl Nevinger; four grandchildren; and 12 great-grandchildren.
A private funeral was held Sept. 11 in Amherst Lutheran Church.