Photo provided
Noblesville Relay for Life co-chair Jen Morris (right) will walk Saturday in memory of her late neighbor and friend, Laurel Ranker (left), who died in 2012 of ovarian cancer and who walked annually in the fundraiser. The Relay for Life at Forest Park is open to anyone who wants to walk for the cause.
Photo provided Noblesville Relay for Life co-chair Jen Morris (right) will walk Saturday in memory of her late neighbor and friend, Laurel Ranker (left), who died in 2012 of ovarian cancer and who walked annually in the fundraiser. The Relay for Life at Forest Park is open to anyone who wants to walk for the cause.
For Jen Morris, Laurel Ranker was a like “a second mom.”
They were neighbors in Noblesville’s South Harbour and became great friends.
They enjoyed campfires together in their backyards and girls’ nights out.
Ranker came over to bake cookies with Morris’ kids. And one time, during an electrical storm with a power outage, Ranker carried a flashlight and radio over to Morris’ house and sat with the kids “so they weren’t scared,” until Morris and her husband came home.
The women talked about anything and everything.
Including when Ranker shared that she had some abdominal pain and wasn’t feeling well. She went to her family doctor and was diagnosed with Stage 4 ovarian cancer. Her husband, Chuck Ranker, came over and shared the sad news with Morris.
Eighteen months after Laurel Ranker’s diagnosis, her daughter, Heather (Ranker) Clark was also diagnosed with Stage 4 ovarian cancer.
Laurel Ranker lived five years after her diagnosis. She died July 26, 2012, at age 65. Her daughter lived eight years after her diagnosis. Heather died Oct. 21, 2016, at age 46, leaving a husband, Mark, and two elementary-age sons, Jack and Luke.
“Ovarian (cancer) is known as the silent killer. A pap screening doesn’t find it,” said Morris, co-chairman of Noblesville Relay for Life, which raises money for the American Cancer Society. This year’s Relay is 10 a.m. to midnight Saturday at Forest Park.
“Laurel asked me to lead Relay (for Life) and I’ve done it for her,” said Morris, 46, who started out walking in the Kokomo Relay, then attended a captain’s meeting at the Noblesville Relay. She got on the Relay committee and now has been co-chairman for eight years with LuAnn Harger of 11 years.
“I thought it was great to teach my kids how to help someone we loved,” said Morris. She and her husband, Mike, have four children, Derek, 23, Drew, 20, Noah, 15, and Shelby, 13.
“Laurel and I talked about everything. Unfortunately, she even spoke to me about dying,” Morris said. “She was so worried about Chuck. I promised he’d never spend a holiday alone. So for several Easters, birthdays and Thanksgivings, he was with us.”
Then, more sad news.
Chuck Ranker was diagnosed with bone cancer, and died on Oct. 28, 2018, at age 72. Their son, Brian, 53, survives.
“It’s horrible to watch a family lose so much,” Morris said sadly, as she told the story. “It’s awful for Brian to lose his family in a matter of six years.”
At Saturday’s Relay for Life, Morris will walk in memory of the Ranker family.
“It’s going to be tougher this year, with ‘Charlie’ just passing,” Morris said. “We do this for them. We couldn’t have asked for better neighbors.”
In 2018, the Relay raised about $57,000 for the American Cancer Society. The 2019 goal is to raise $62,000.
This is the first time that Noblesville Relay for Life won’t be an overnight fundraiser. The grass-roots community-based team event instead will go all day on Saturday.
This year’s theme is “May the Cure Be with You,” playing off of the popular Star Wars movies, with participants invited to dress in the theme.
Opening ceremony begins at 10 a.m., with the survivor/caregiver walk to follow. Survivor brunch is at 11 a.m., with a luminaria ceremony at 9:30 p.m., with Noblesville West Middle School choir, West Side Sound, to perform. A lip sync battle will follow, culminating the evening with pizza from Marco’s at midnight. There will be games and food and entertainment all day.
Morris encourages people to get involved. “Absolutely anyone can sign up and walk,” she said.
If you can’t walk, just come and hang out for a little while and support the cause, the survivors and those we’ve lost.
A Westfield Relay for Life is 5 p.m. to midnight today at Grand Park.
To learn more about the relay, visit https://www.cancer.org/.
-Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com. I got to know Laurel Ranker when she worked in the advertising department for more than 20 years at The Noblesville Ledger and at The Indianapolis Star.