Volunteer Spotlight: Mary Rabago

by Steven Dugan

In this month’s Volunteer Spotlight, we would like to introduce you to Mary Rabago, who has been on the volunteer staff since 2016 and began giving public tours last August. In addition to giving tours and working special events, she is part of a team of volunteers who cover phones in the front office when needed. We asked Mary to share her first impressions of the museum, her interest in history, and what she likes about her experience as a volunteer so far.

Tell us about your first visit to the Homestead and how that influenced your decision to volunteer at the museum.

My first visit was the Victorian Fair a few years ago, which was so much fun. I fell in love with the Workman House and La Casa Nueva. The tour took me back in time; I just loved it! I had seen the flyers for volunteers and decided this was for me. I felt a lot of good vibes at the Homestead Museum.

What do you find most interesting about the history of the Workman and Temple families?  How do you share that interest with your visitors?

The most interesting story about the history of the Workman and Temple families is the struggles and challenges of this new land where they decided to settle. We all at one time or another face challenges in our own lives, so hearing these stories help us relate to the families, even though they lived more than 100 years ago. We are very thankful that we were left with the houses so we can share the story of these families with our visitors.

Mary-Cruise photo
Mary (left) and friend on a recent cruise trip.

In addition to conducting public tours, you have begun observing and assisting in the Journey Through Time school tours. What do you like about each of these tours?

Taking our visitors through the Workman House and La Casa Nueva feels like I am taking them through a journey through time. I see the excitement in their eyes when they take in this new knowledge they have acquired.

Taking the school kids on the Journey Through Time tour is so much fun. I get to watch them enjoy all the activities of the tour, and when they enter La Casa Nueva, there are a lot of “WOWS” as they enter the Main Hall. Most of them have never seen such a beautiful house. It’s a great feeling to share in their experience!

What are your favorite events here at the museum?

I have to say I love all the events; the staff does a great job in organizing them. I seem to learn something new every time I attend one. I especially like the lectures. I actually feel a little smarter and I impress my family with my new knowledge.

How would you describe the Homestead to people who have never visited?

If people live within the historic Homestead boundaries (the Rancho La Puente), I ask them how many times they have passed the museum and wondered what it was all about. I also ask if they are familiar with such names as Workman Mill Road, Don Julian Road, Temple Avenue, and Temple City. I then tell them the Homestead Museum is where it all started! For those who live outside of our area I encourage them to be adventurous and come to our museum—they will discover a little treasure in the City of Industry— or they can Google us and explore all we have to offer.

Mary - Granddaughter Amber
Mary’s granddaughter, Amber, participating in a barrel race.

When you are not volunteering at the museum, what are some other ways you like to spend your time?

Currently I am a member of the Covina Woman’s Club; which is celebrating 120 years in the community. I volunteer at many of their events. Through the Women’s Club I am also involved with the Domestic Violence Action Coalition (DVAC). Organized in 2008, there are now 120 members amongst 40 organizations. Together we provide support to victims and survivors of domestic violence, child abuse, and elder abuse. We meet once a month to plan and implement programs to address the issue of violence in their communities.

As a doting grandmother, I immensely enjoy watching my granddaughter Amber compete in barrel racing, a rodeo event in which riders maneuver their horses through and around a patterned maze of barrels. The object is to guide your horse through the maze in the fastest time. Both boys and girls compete at the youth level, while women only compete at the collegiate and professional levels. And I also like to travel. In May I am taking an exciting ten-day cruise to Ireland and Iceland. My motto is “LIFE is a gift—do not waste it.”

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