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Laura 'Sis' Binau

March 14, 2009|By MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail publishes "A Life Remembered." This continuing series takes a look back -- through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others -- at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Laura "Sis" Binau, who died March 7 at the age of 58. Her obituary was published in the March 8 edition of The Herald-Mail.

The mood Thursday at Laura Binau's funeral was respectful, but far from somber. Many of those attending shunned traditional dark attire for the bright reds and deep purples of the Red Hat Society.

Even Laura was dressed befitting her title as the queen of the Western Maryland Hospital Center Red Hat Girls.

"We brought five Red Hat ladies and two of Laura's male friends from Western Maryland by van for her service," said Denise Sigler of the hospital's recreational therapy department.

Myra Binau, Laura's sister-in-law, said there were five Red Hat clubs represented Wednesday night at Laura's viewing. And all were dressed for the occasion.

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"It's what she would have wanted," Myra said, herself wearing a red hat, red jewelry and a purple sweater to the well-attended funeral service at Minnich Funeral Home on East Wilson Boulevard.

Arriving in a wheelchair, Mary Mash said she had been Laura's roommate for the past eight months.

"She was a lovely woman ... like a sister to me," Mary said.

Before November 2007, Laura had been sharing a room at the hospital center with her husband, Alvin "Bink" Binau Jr., to whom she had been married since 1969.

After Alvin died, Laura remained at Western Maryland, staying active with her Red Hat projects and other interests.

"She was in my life a lot," said nephew Doug Jones, who always called Laura "Aunt Sis," a nickname Laura's brother, Bill Jones, gave his older sister when they were growing up.

Bill said he and Sis were very close when they were kids in Williamsport. As adults, they often would vacation together. In recent years, they talked weekly on the telephone.

Known for her musical talent, Laura played flute in the Williamsport High School band, Bill said.

For 46 years, she sang in the choir at Rehoboth United Methodist Church in Williamsport, said her current pastor, Jim Swecker.

As Laura's first-born nephew, Doug said he began spending summers with Aunt Sis and Uncle Bink when he was about 10 years old.

"We have stayed in touch," Doug said, noting he handled the couple's finances, then Laura's.

As Laura's closest relative, Bill decided to have his sister dressed in the reds and purples of her Red Hat club.

Faye Corum wore her red hat Thursday as she was wheeled into the funeral home.

"I've only been at Western Maryland for a year," Faye said. "Laura was the first lady I met and she became my best friend."

It was because of Laura that Faye joined the Red Hat group.

"Laura was an angel," Sandy Busey said. "She never complained about anything."

Friends from long before the Western Maryland Hospital Center, Mary Henson and Laura kept that friendship through the Red Hats.

"I was honored to be Laura's friend," Mary said. "She was like the sweetest and nicest sister to me."

Myra said 2009 has been very difficult for the Western Maryland Red Hats. Laura is the third member to pass away this year.

"We are having a memorial service on March 24 for all three of those ladies," Myra said.

In all, Laura was a member of three red hat groups -- Rubies with Hattitudes, Antiquities and founding member and queen of the Western Maryland Red Hat Girls.

Since the whole point of the Red Hat Society is to bring women together to have fun, Laura said in an interview two years ago she didn't know why that philosophy wouldn't have applied to her and others just because they happened to be residents at the Western Maryland Hospital Center.

The chapter was started in January 2007.

Meetings usually were once a month from 11:30 a.m. to about 2:30 p.m., Laura said in the interview. After the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer, the members shared a meal.

Started in 2000 in California, the Red Hat Society is a group for women older than 50 who enjoy socializing in their red and purple finery.

The group's name has its origins in the opening lines of "Warning," a poem by Jenny Joseph:

"When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple

With a red hat that doesn't go and doesn't suit me."

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