TEDDY TRAGER KEY
On June 16, 1924, Crystal Nance Trager was born in Albury, Australia to Ann Mahoney and Frank Trager. She was their second daughter, and as time unfolded, it became clear that her destiny would include many gifts: an almost legendary talent in singing, a natural way of teaching and guiding children, and an unquenchable yearning for the meaning of life and communion with God. Her parents raised her as a Catholic, and after her christening and confirmation names were added, the little girl possessed the unwieldy name of Gloria Crystal Nance Mary Magdalene Trager. They called her “Teddy”.
By the time she was nineteen, Teddy was living in the USA, one of many war brides who had immigrated during WWII. Her Texas-born husband, Ray Key, remained in the Pacific while she stayed with her in-laws until the war ended. Teddy eagerly anticipated starting a family, envisioning a houseful of many children. Little did she know that her dream would come true, but not quite the way she’d imagined.
She had two daughters of her own - Frances Rae in 1952 and Kelly Elizabeth in 1964. Teddy didn’t want to leave her children while she worked, so she established a private school and day care center attached to her home in Jacksonville, Florida. She also continued her quest for truth. Her Catholic upbringing had left her with too many unanswered questions, and she realized she wanted a different kind of spiritual instruction for her children. When Frances, who she’d nicknamed “Frankie”, turned five, she left the church of her childhood. It took bravery to break from tradition, but she had always been an adventurer. She began to search out new avenues of faith by visiting various churches, her children in hand. Eventually, she discovered The Universal Church of Ontology in Jacksonville, Florida, a beautiful little chapel that used Christian vernacular, music, and atmosphere to present mystical teachings. In 1978, they left the church but continued their own practice of meditation, prayer, and service.
Teddy established a second private school on a beautiful ten-acre piece of land filled with oak trees that she called “Summerhill”. She continued to meet with her friends and other family members to share spiritual insights. She remained a leader among her peers, an invigorator for exploration into deeper wisdom. Most importantly, though, she applied these spiritual principles to her dealings with humanity, particularly with the children she taught. As a result, she was adored by the teens she took into her school, many who were floundering due to personal and family difficulties. Throughout the years, she was described by many of these young people as being the person who saved them from despair, the one who kept them afloat, who believed in them, sheltered them and salvaged them from emotional and moral quagmires. She was a rock and haven for these youth, and her home was open to them day and night.
When she turned sixty, Teddy closed her school and became a housemother at a runaway shelter for teens, where she again applied her philosophy of “seeing the light of Christ in everyone” to the troubled youth she met. As time went by, she took into her home a variety of people who others had rejected, including refugees, homeless people, and people just down on their luck. Her own children and grandchildren remained her focus, however, and she showered them with her affection, spunky humor, and assistance in every way she possibly could. There was no error that she did not forgive, and the concept of holding a grudge was nonexistent to her. Her family lived in awe of this inspiring, unassuming woman in their midst who often said to them, “I feel like I am part of a Team. Some of us are here, and some of us are “over there.” And while she was open to the many paths through which people seek enlightenment, she would claim, “If we could all live the teachings of Jesus, the world would be a perfect place.”
Teddy and her daughters experienced remarkable spiritual events together. One of such events in the 1990’s involved the appearance of an angelic apparition in Teddy’s room. Frankie was asleep on the floor of her mother’s room because her mother had undergone some surgery. During the night, her mother began to talk in her sleep about a “Sister”. Her talking awakened Frankie who lay listening to Teddy for a while, and then a brilliant flash of light filled the room. Stunned by the light, they both sat up immediately, and Teddy described that while she was asleep she had a vision of a nun named Sister Teresa who was teaching her about Divine Love. Frankie turned on the lamp, and there on the floor between Teddy’s bed and Frankie’s blankets was the imprint of two small human footprints, deeply embedded in the carpet as if they’d been permanently impressed there by the manufacturing company. They examined the footprints closely and found that they were unable to remove them by brushing or vacuuming. These footprints remained firmly imprinted on the carpet for many months to come. Numerous members of her family and circle of friends can recount similar experiences they experienced with Teddy as well.
As Teddy grew older, her family encouraged her to write down her life story and spiritual perspectives, even offering to help her. Teddy started to do so upon several occasions, but seemed unable to maintain the project. She would, in turn, tell Frankie, “You should try doing that automatic writing like you used to do as a little girl,” but Frankie would claim she had no interest in it, and in fact was a little afraid of stories she’d heard of such activities attracting mischievous spirits. Back and forth they would go about this topic, and in the end neither pursued their writing.
In April of 2008, it was discovered that Teddy had cancer. She rallied enough to see a musical that Frankie had written about Teddy’s life, which was performed at a local theatre. “Aussie Song” was embraced wholeheartedly by both by the cast and the community, for it captured the magic of Teddy’s early years in Australia, her close bond with her father, and her immigration to America. The timing had unfolded perfectly, allowing Teddy, her family, her dearest friend Vivien and her sister Merle to share the experience together, not only once, but throughout nine shows!
Family and friends cared for Teddy as her illness progressed until October 9, 2010, when Teddy passed away at “Summerhill”, the acreage she had always loved so dearly. Looking back, Frankie knows now that the sensation she felt at the moment of her mother’s passing was some kind of an “exchange of spiritual DNA” between the two of them. It seemed that some part of Teddy remained in Frankie, and some part of Frankie departed with her mother, enabling what was to follow.
At her memorial, a large gathering of people came to express the impact that Teddy had made on their lives with her generosity of spirit, resources, and heart. One man summed it up when he said, “I came to Teddy a broken boy. I had been thrown away like a piece of trash. She took me in and she loved me, taught me I was worth something. She truly saved my life.” It appears that Teddy is still expressing that love to humanity. Just as Frankie and Teddy had encouraged one another to do, both are now writing again. Teddy has found in Frankie a channel to express her broader scope of wisdom, and Frankie is not afraid to open herself to the process of inspirational writing, fully confident of the integrity of her contact. Those who know Teddy recognize her voice in this work, and are grateful beyond words that she is still with them, continuing to enlighten their walk through life.