Lora Mae Abraham
Mae died quietly at her home on Friday, August 23, 2019, at the age of 92.
On July 24, 1927, an important day in the annals of Ashley history, Lora Mae Ashley Abraham was born in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina to Rev. Arthur Ashley and Molly Williams Ashley. She was the fifth of eleven children, survived by just one sister today, Camilla Ashley-Firsow.
Following a graduation from Jefferson High School, in Jefferson, NC, Mae went on to attend a business college in Tennessee. In her first summer break at college, she came to Maryland to work and joined her older sister, Mary, at the Mayflower Diner in Aberdeen. It was there that Mae met the love of her life, Tommy Abraham, a soldier stationed at Aberdeen Proving Ground. They were married soon after meeting and had one son, Alex Abraham. Tommy died at age 91, forever leaving emptiness in the hear of those who loved him so much.
Honoring her early Baptist religion teachings, Mae remained a non-drinker until well after her marriage to Tommy. She shared in her recovery story that her first drink was to help her relax and dance better with her husband. One drink eventually turned into alcoholism for which she felt deep shame and remorse. On August 26, 1964, Mae had her last drink and at her death celebrated almost 55 years of sobriety.
Mae met Father Martin in 1964, quite by accident. She and her local Alcoholics Anonymous group had gone to Johns Hopkins University to hear the late Senator Harold Hughes speak on alcoholism. Much to her dismay, she found Sen. Hughes had cancelled his appearance due to a death in the family and a priest had been called in to replace him.
Mae, being the daughter of a Baptist minister, would never have gone to hear a Catholic priest speak under any circumstances. She says, however, that her Higher Power was looking out for her that evening. Father Martin gave his now famous “Chalk Talk on Alcohol” blackboard lecture and without preaching or moralizing, identified alcoholism as a disease not a moral failing. Mae said she finally could accept what was wrong with her.
In an interview with the Baltimore Sun in 2008, Mae said, “Father Martin removed the stigma and shame from me about my alcoholism and I vowed that never again would I allow anyone or even myself to make me feel ashamed of what happened to me.”
Mae’s story could have ended there but God destined her and Father Martin to work together to further the education and treatment of alcoholics and addicts. “Ashley, the Possible Dream” became the theme for their fund-raising efforts which took many years to accomplish. Mae said, “We faced many trials, failures, and tears but one thing we did not lose was determination.” Ashley, the reality and possible dream, opened its doors to patients on January 17, 1983.
Mae served many roles over the years at Ashley but none more satisfying than to stand in front of an audience and say, “I’m Mae and I am a grateful recovering alcoholic.” She continued to speak monthly up to her death to the patients at Ashley.
On her 90th birthday, the leadership and staff, as well as Mae’s family and friends, gathered at Ashley to honor Mae with a surprise birthday party. The event’s program was filled with humor and nostalgia. The highlight of the event was the introduction of the Lora Mae Rose, a new hybrid of brilliant yellow with orange highlights which was bred and named for this occasion. The rose, a lasting memorial to the First Lady of Ashley, will be situated in the Chapel Garden.
Mae is survived by her son Alex and his wife, Caroline, who chose some years ago to make their home with Mae and Tommy to offer support and love in their aging years. While there are many other survivors on both of Mae and Tommy’s sides of the family, two deserve special mention, Mae’s adored grandchildren, Audrey Mae and Tommy.
A viewing will be held Thursday, August 29, 2019, from 10:00 AM until 2:00 PM, and from 4:00 until 8:00 PM, at Zellman Funeral Home, P.A., 123 South Washington Street, Havre de Grace, MD. A Mass of Resurrection will be held on Friday, August 30, 2019, at 10:00 AM, at St. Joan of Arc Church, 222 South Law Street, Aberdeen, MD 21001. Officiating in the Memorial Mass will be Father Joe McDonough of Baltimore and others. Interment will be held at Harford Memorial Gardens in Aberdeen, MD. In lieu of flowers, contribution may be made to the Mae Abraham Legacy Fund at Ashley Addiction Treatment, P.O. Box 240, Havre de Grace, MD 21078.
Pallbearers are Tommy and Audrey Abraham-Blum, Michael Abraham, Dale Niswonger, Alex Firsow, and Brad Mosch.
Online condolences may be made at www.zellmanfuneralhome.com.