Mother finds moments of solace in her grief

DARRINGTON — In her grief, Rae Smith found solace Wednesday.

She knew her daughter’s friends never stopped looking for her after her car was swallowed by Saturday’s deadly Oso mudslide.

Smith also knows it was Summer Raffo’s brother, Dayn Brunner, who lovingly lifted his sister from her mud-encased car Wednesday.

“He held her and he cried over her before they flew her out,” Smith said.

Raffo, two weeks shy of her 37th birthday, was one of 13 children, including 10 who were adopted.

She was pathologically punctual, which is why Smith immediately suspected the worst Saturday.

Raffo was driving west toward Trafton for an 11 a.m. appointment. A graduate of farrier school, she had several horses whose hooves needed trimming.

“She never didn’t show up on time for an appointment — ever,” Smith said.

From a young age, Raffo developed a strong work ethic, which served her well on the family farm where she helped raise Arabian horses and Yorkshire terriers. It followed her to the Summit and Hampton mills in town, where she worked for many years as a lumber stacker and later as a part-time janitor for the Darrington School District.

Compassion and hard work were traits she learned from her parents, said family friend Shari Brewer.

When one of Brewer’s horses was sick with colic, it was Rae Smith who drove through three feet of snow with the medicines.

“She was like her mom — caring, trustworthy and reliable,” Brewer said.

Brewer’s daughter, Rhonda Cook, shared Raffo’s love of horses. Cook was among the team of close friends and family who heeded Smith’s plea to find her daughter.

Knowing how tirelessly they searched gave Smith some comfort Wednesday evening.

“She was such a caring person,” Smith said.

“I know if she wasn’t in the mudslide she would have been up to her waist digging and looking for survivors.”

Raffo divided her time between her husband, Joel Sundstrom, at their home in Concrete and her parents’ farm in Darrington, where she helped care for the animals.

Her death is difficult for her mother to comprehend.

“This is the longest we have ever been apart,” she said. “Her leaving is going to make a hole in my heart.”

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