|Angie Cuthrell Raybourne|
So much can change in a year.
This month, Angie Cuthrell Raybourne of Alexandria should have been clinking glasses while celebrating the 2nd anniversary of her dream come true – her own salon. Instead, family and friends fight back tears while sharing what happened February 16. Angie's heart stopped, suddenly, unexpectedly, at her daughter's 5th birthday party. She never recovered. She was 31.
|Angie Raybourne and her dad, Mark Cuthrell, worked together for many months to turn what was formerly Jim's Barber Shop into Angie's dream salon.|
Angie poured her heart into the salon, completely gutting it while also preserving as much of the barber's shop's history as possible. Angie had incredible style, which was evident everywhere in the salon, from Jim's restored barber chair to the shadow boxes that display Jim's old tools to the color scheme (teal and yellow) to the salon's overall modern/vintage vibe. Angie was an artist; the salon was her canvas. Walking through the salon's doors is a bit like being privy to what Angie held deep in her heart. And although Angie's heart is no longer beating, the salon – "Angie's dream" – is still up and running. Family and friends hope its doors stay open for a long time.
RELATED: LMH Salon Opens While Jim's Barber Shop is Remembered
Angie grew up with parents Paula and Mark Cuthrell, and sisters Allison (Allie Scharf), Sara Cuthrell and Maria Cuthrell. Last week, on a sunny Tuesday, I met with Mark, Allie and Meg Bardo, one of Angie's best friends and fellow stylist, at the salon. So much of Angie was there, even though she, physically, was not. I spotted some chimes and a stepping-stone gifted by clients, a picture of Angie, words, remembrances. Still, I expected to see Angie.
When you own a salon and you die, tragically young, clients don't expect it – in fact, they don't even consider it a possibility. But the uncomfortable truth of life is this: It can end at any time. And when it does, people need to be told.
As a sister, and best friend, Allie and Meg said it was near impossible to say the words once, never mind over and over again. So acquaintances, a bit more removed, showed up as we do when our friends and neighbors are in need. They made dozens of calls to clients, canceling appointments, rescheduling (with Meg who has singlehandedly taken over the appointment book) and explaining what happened. But still, months later, the phone will ring. "I'd like to schedule an appointment with Angie please." And then Meg has to say the words, all over again. Sometimes they say, "I think I called the wrong salon." Other times, complete silence.
|February 16, 2019. Angie and her husband, Greg Raybourne, celebrating their daughter's 5th birthday. No one knew the tragedy that would unfold just a little while later.|
Family had gathered at Angie's parents' house on that cold day in February. Charley Jo, daughter of Angie and Greg Raybourne, was turning 5. Angie hadn't been feeling well and had pain in her left upper shoulder area. She thought it was due to cutting hair. She put some ice on it and then went to her parents' bedroom to rest. A few minutes later one of her sisters walked into the bedroom and then ran out. Something was wrong with Angie. A seizure, maybe? What they wouldn't know until later was that there were three major blockages resulting in a sudden massive coronary event in a seemingly healthy, vibrant, young woman. There was no way of knowing. Blame genetics. Blame bad luck. Blame life's sometimes mysterious cruelty.
Thankfully the children were all in another room playing and didn't witness the aftermath. An ambulance came. Commotion. Tears. A ride to St. Elizabeth Fort Thomas. Heartbreak.
Family says Charley is adjusting, in large part thanks to great love and care from her dad (Greg and Angie married in 2010), and from her grandparents, aunts, cousins and close friends. Charley says her mommy is "an angel up in heaven." Angie is often making her presence known throughout the family. Her spirit lives on, they say, through their everyday lives, in the small things they experience and in their memories.
|Greg and Charley, loving and missing their wife and mom at the March 9, 2019 Epilepsy Walk.|
|Charley and Greg led this year's Epilepsy Walk in honor of Angie.|
|Angie's sister, Allie Sharf, walking to support her niece and in Angie's honor.|
|Many family and friends walked to support Charley and honor Angie.|
Charley was diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of 3. Angie worked hard to learn all she could about the disease. She set out to fight the disease by finding ways to support the epilepsy foundation. This drive had become a big part of Angie's life. Family and friends walked in the March 9, 2019 Epilepsy Walk called "Emerald Miles." Greg and Charley led the walk and Angie was honored during the opening ceremony.
In June, Angie's parents attended the Rolling Stones concert in Chicago – because of Angie. For Christmas, Angie suggested concert tickets as a gift. Family chipped in and made it happen. Allie managed to snag two tickets online the hour ticket sales opened. Christmas Day Angie dressed in a Rolling Stones' t-shirt. Mark said he wondered why Angie was wearing a ratty old t-shirt to the family's Christmas celebration but decided she was old enough to make her own decisions. Little did he know the gift he would later open.
|St. Stephen Cemetery, Fort Thomas|
Angie's visitation was on February 22, a bitter cold Friday. It lasted five hours. Many people waited in long lines to pay their respects. Before leaving Angie's dad asked the funeral director to leave a light on – for his daughter. The next day there was a Mass of Christian Burial at St. Mary of the Assumption Church. Angie is buried in St. Stephen Cemetery, Fort Thomas.
|Angie designed and drew this tattoo, which she called "Infinite Love." After her death, all three sisters got the same tattoo on their wrists.|
Recently family and friends have noticed a bit of a shift. Conversation surrounding Angie is no longer centered on February 16. Rather, they talk about who Angie was – a loving, kind and fun mom, wife, sister, daughter and friend. A beautiful soul who was always smiling (except in the morning, her dad says, laughing – remembering). A helper through and through. A talented hairdresser, designer, artist, photographer, woodworker and baker. Someone who put family first, always. Family and friends are reaching further back, into pockets filled with good memories, happier times. As Angie would have wanted, they say. So they keep reaching in and taking a look at what comes out – there is a lot of happiness to choose from.
|James (Jim) T. Mountain, Angie's uncle and former owner of Jim's Barber Shop.|
|Angie, in LMH Salon.|
|Meg and Angie, 2017|
Meg is actively looking for someone to – not fill Angie's space (no one could do that) – but to join the team at the salon, to cut and style hair and just help.
Angie's family says they are grateful Meg has stepped up to cover all that is needed for the salon. But they know there is so much more to do. As they mark, and, dare I say, celebrate the salon's 2nd anniversary, they hope it exists, as an homage to Angie, for a long, long time.
— Kara Gebhart Uhl