Rosemary Kraemer Raitt: A joyful life and a lasting legacy of philanthropy

“I think we get as much as we give.”
John and Rosemary Raitt sit in an embrace and pose for the camera
John and Rosemary Raitt

“She was fun!”

Cheryl Hammond and John Kraemer agree that this describes Rosemary Kraemer Raitt, the name behind the Foundation for which they serve as co-trustees, and which has supported the Tullie and Rickey Families SPARK Awards for Innovations in Immunology for three years running.

Rosemary was also a savvy businesswoman, a lover of art—with an eye for design—a polio survivor, a cheerleader for the underdog, and a passionate philanthropist. In the mid-1980s, Rosemary reunited with her high school sweetheart, John Raitt (father of singer Bonnie Raitt). Later in life and a widower, John heard Rosemary was also single, picked some roses from the neighbor’s garden, and went directly to her house. When she opened the door and smiled, John knew they were “instantly back in love.”

In the years since grade school, John had actually made it big on Broadway. In fact, he was Rodgers and Hammerstein’s golden boy, having starred in the likes of “Oklahoma!” and more. [Video: John Raitt performs “If I Loved You”]

They married, and John and Rosemary Raitt spent the next two decades together in bliss. John remained a busy performer, and Rosemary focused on her vision for the Rosemary Kraemer Raitt Foundation.

Each year, Rosemary invited her closest confidants, including John Kraemer, her nephew, and Cheryl Hammond, her dear friend and business consultant, to her home for collaborative sessions about her dreams for the “Foundation”. It was a fun house to visit and John and Rosemary made it easy to stay for a while.

“John would answer the door singing “Oklahoma!” laughs Cheryl.

“I went to her house for this collaborative process one time, and I ended up staying for three days,” John reminisces.

These annual meetings went on until Rosemary’s death in 2011. John and Cheryl were appointed co-trustees of the Foundation and by then, they were confident in their understanding of Rosemary’s intentions. So when they learned about the Tullie and Rickey SPARK program, they knew Rosemary would approve. “She would have loved what it’s doing for young scientists who are trying to swing for the fences,” says John.

Rosemary’s nephew, and LJI supporter, John Kraemer

John and Cheryl continue to fund the SPARK program because the impact their gifts can have is clear. “What the Tullies and Rickeys have done with this program is perfect for a foundation of our size, because we see the leverage their gifts create,” says John.

John and Cheryl enjoy carrying on Rosemary’s legacy in this way, and intend to pass it on to the next generation. “It makes us all richer,” says John. “I think we get as much as we give.” Cheryl adds, “I consider being a trustee of this foundation as one of Rosemary’s greatest gifts to me.