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Our beloved mother, Rachel Palma Mollycheck, born April 7, 1935, in Chula Vista, California, passed away September 21 at the home of her daughter, Attorney Debbie S. Mollycheck, in Fort Mill, SC.
Although Rachel sometimes struggled to recall past events after a 2020 serious bout of Covid, she continued to vividly recount being born on the farmland of her grandmother, Caterina Gonzales.
During her upbringing, Rachel was surrounded by her parents, Gilbert and Libby Palma, and her aunts Dora and Dorcas Gonzales, all who passed years ago. From them Rachel learned to cook a variety of dishes from Spain and Mexico, to work the fields, and to sew. On Sundays, her family would walk to church.
Farm life was not all work for Rachel. Her aunts taught her to be an exceptional dancer. The tango, waltz, cha cha and other popular dances were in her repertoire.
While a senior at Chula Vista High School in 1952, Rachel attended a United Services Organization (USO) dance in San Diego with her aunts. Her swaying to the music and red lipstick (pictured) caught the eye of a handsome navy man on leave from his U.S. Naval Air Station, Adak, Alaska. Franto (Frank) Mollycheck III had learned to be a talented dancer as a teenager at a USO during World War II. In San Diego, Frank requested that 17-year-old Rachel accompany him to the dance floor; her aunts gave the o.k. After taking to the dance floor at the USO, the other dancers stopped to watch Rachel and Frank in awe.
Instead of accepting the scholarship offered to her by Chula Vista High School for her outstanding academic record and citizenship, Rachel instead accepted Frank’s marriage proposal. On June 22, 1953, they were married in Chula Vista. Frank drove his bride the 2,449 miles back to his family farm in Mount Pleasant, SC. Rachel’s commitment to the church and to family also caught Frank’s heart.
Frank would build their small home himself on the same 12 acre farm on Old Georgetown Road in Mount Pleasant where his father, U.S. Lighthouse Keeper Franto Mollycheck II had been born in 1902. Frank was born in his father’s assistant keeper’s quarters at St. Simons, Georgia, Lighthouse Station in 1929. From an early age, Frank was taught all that the rivers had to offer by his parents–including how to feed a family with a fishing pole and a homemade cast net.
With little money during their marriage, Rachel and Frank used the skills and values they had been gifted by their families to raise their four daughters, born between 1954 and 1958 on the Mount Pleasant farm. A son, the late Franto Mollycheck IV, was born in 1963.
In addition to always making home-cooked meals, with plenty of fish and shrimp, caught by Frank, Rachel was a master seamstress and sewed her girls’ school and church outfits. Later, she did the same with their wedding dresses. An article appeared in the 1983 Evening Post (Charleston, SC) interviewing Rachel for her award winning quilts she designed for family and friends. Her quilts usually had traditional designs, with most of the work done by hand. She also taught quilt-making classes. Her quilt designs told a story and are hanging in the homes of her daughters, grandchildren, and friends throughout the United States and overseas. A number of her quilts were submitted to the Charleston Coastal Carolina Fair over the years where she won several first place creative arts ribbons and different degrees of best in show awards.
Rachel and Frank raised their children in the First Baptist Church in Mount Pleasant. Because Rachel is bilingual, when the churches would minister to the migrant workers, Rachel would volunteer to be an interpreter. Rachel also enjoyed teaching Sunday School and her women’s Bible study groups. In 1974, Rachel and a handful of other church friends formulated a plan to form a Baptist church east of the Cooper River. Starting with meetings in homes, then at Wando High School, a church was eventually built on Whipple Road in 1976. The preacher put out a call for an artist to draw a likeness of the new building. Rachel, also an artist, offered her daughter Raney for the task. After Raney completed the drawing, the preacher was so impressed with Raney’s image he used it on the church Sunday bulletins, stationery, and business cards. Today, what was a small mission church is known as East Cooper Baptist Church.
Rachel’s husband Franto (Frank) Mollycheck III died when he was 53 years old. Rachel will be buried next to him. Debbie has often said that everything she has become and everything she has she owes to the normal, stable childhood her parents sacrificed to give their children on the dirt Old Georgetown Road. Rachel’s “girls” are confident she has been reunited with her handsome Frank, and they are dancing the waltz in heaven.
Rachel is survived by her daughters Cheryle Mollycheck, Debbie Mollycheck (Larry Mitlin), Cindy Mollycheck, and Raney Mollycheck, daughter-in-law Doreen Mollycheck (wife of the late Franto Mollycheck IV), grandchildren Nickie Specht, Kerrie Specht, Rebecca Mitlin (Matt Brennan), Frank Mitlin, Katie Wright, Jason Wright, Franto Mollycheck V, Rachel Mollycheck, Cayce Paszek, and Kaleigh Mollycheck, six great grandchildren, and one great, great grandchild.
She is also survived by her sister-in-law, Jeanette Mollycheck (wife of the late Dr. Ralph Mollycheck), and her dear friends Mary Stewart, Melba Woods, and Judy Young. Mary recently said, “Rachel is a wonderful, loving, smart, and creative lady, and we are blessed to have her in our lives.” Rachel was also a caring “mother” to her children’s many friends.
The family would like to thank the very kind Senior Helpers of Rock Hill who assisted at the home of Debbie Mollycheck. In particular, Lisa Davis’ thoughtful spirit and her skills were comforting and calming to Rachel. They would also thank Dr. Brandon Sick for his willingness to quickly step in to offer guidance and to members of the Oakland Baptist Church.
A celebration of life will be held Thursday, October 5, 2023, at 10:00 a.m. at East Cooper Baptist Church, 361 Egypt Rd., Mount Pleasant, SC. Burial will be private at Mount Pleasant Memorial Gardens. Palmetto Funeral Home is assisting the family with the arrangements. For more information and to view an online memorial, go to https://www.palmettofuneralgroup.com/listings
Memorials may be made in Rachel Mollycheck’s name to East Cooper Baptist Church, 361 Egypt Road, Mount Pleasant, SC 29464, Hospice and Community Care, 2275 India Hook Rd., Rock Hill, SC 29732, or Oakland Baptist Church, 1067 Oakland Ave., Rock Hill, SC 29732 or https://oakland.breezechms.com/give/online.