WEST RICHLAND -- Alia Raad Luckey of Richland was the seed that started the fruitful community of the Islamic Center of Tri-Cities.
More than 100 people met Monday at the West Richland mosque to honor and mourn Raad Luckey, 82, who was the founder of the Tri-City Muslim community and acted as a mother, sister and teacher to many.
Raad Luckey died Saturday at Kadlec Regional Medical Center from injuries related to a fall.
The Islamic Center of Tri-Cities started in Raad Luckey's living room with a few families in the 1970s, and has grown to more than 200 families who attend the West Richland mosque.
Raad Luckey started the community after she and her ex-husband, Robert Luckey, moved to Richland in 1962.
Raad Luckey was an original, said her son, Wes Luckey of Kennewick. At a time when it was unusual for Muslim women to study abroad, Raad Luckey, who was born in Lebanon in 1927, came to the United States at age 19 to go to college along with her brother Ali. She received her bachelor's of science degree at the University of Utah and a master's degree in bacteriology at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
Her son Omar Luckey of Beaverton, Ore., said he remembers her telling the story of how she met the queen of England when the queen visited Raad Luckey's research team.
Raad Luckey worked with the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., under the doctor who was responsible for the first influenza vaccine. While there, she cultured an adenovirus needed for their work that no one else was able to grow, said Robert Luckey.
Hassan Ziada of Kennewick, who has served as a volunteer imam, described Raad Luckey, who was a Hanford lab technician and at one point a real estate agent, as the core of the Tri-City Muslim community.
She taught Islamic Sunday school until two years ago, teaching children Islam and Arabic. Zahra Khan, a Pasco High School English teacher, said she was a teacher who everyone liked. Raad Luckey taught Khan from first grade through high school, and Khan said she can read Arabic thanks to her.
Raad Luckey had strong faith, and Wes Luckey said they used to refer to her as the Muslim pope. She embodied the peaceful nature of Islam.
She acted as the welcoming committee for newcomers to the community, Ziada said. She would seek out refugees who moved to the Tri-Cities, visit them in their homes and make sure they received help.
Fatima Traore said when she came to the Tri-Cities from Mali in Western Africa 15 years ago, Raad Luckey was one of the first people she met. She helped Traore's brother search for a job and spoke French to Traore's mother.
And when Traore went through a personal tragedy, she said Raad Luckey prayed for her and cried with her.
Raad Luckey prayed frequently. Wes Luckey said he couldn't drive off in his car without her blessing it. And she blessed her friends and family before they left on trips and before medical procedures like chemotherapy.
She attended graduations and remembered birthdays.
"She was a walking Facebook," son Alin Luckey of Lynnwood said. "She knew everything."
Raad Luckey was frugal and would search for a bargain even when it meant visiting many stores, Wes Luckey said. She would bargain because for her, the price tag was only a starting point.
But she was frugal so she could be generous. Alin Luckey recalled how on Mother's Day, what she wanted to do with him first was buy new shoes for two children who had never had new shoes. She gave frequently to charities and other families, and her home was full of toys, clothes and cookware she purchased to give to those in need.
Kaleem Ullah of Richland, who met Raad Luckey in 1981, said she was full of talent, energy and eloquence. She had foresight and vision.
One example of her forward thinking was in 1981, when she reserved an area at Sunset Memorial Gardens in Richland for Tri-City Muslims to be buried. She knew the community would grow, her sons said.
That is where Raad Luckey was buried Monday. Then, the community that she mothered held a potluck like she had requested.
After all, it was hard to tell Raad Luckey no.
-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; email@example.com