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Remembering RAIMA

January 1939-April 2022

Hand Drawn Cactus Prickly Pear

Raima Ann Chalmers a well-known Tucson artist, dancer, architectural designer, historical restorer, and mother passed away at the age of 83 in late April 2022, but not without a brave fight.

Born in Phoenix in 1939, Raima's parents – Charles Whitney Roper and Jane McArthur Roper – had deep historical ties to Phoenix that went back to early Arizona territorial times and, most famously, the building of the Biltmore Hotel in 1928 by the McArthur family.

Raima moved to Tucson to attend the University of Arizona, where she joined the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority and was a pompom girl in the U of A marching band. Raima received her bachelor's degree in Fine Arts and Education. After having children Raima later went on to earn a master's degree in modern dance from U of A. While in art school during the late 1950's, she met and later married fellow artist Tom Wiper of Sausalito, CA. They had two children, Steven and Gretchen. Tom Wiper passed away in 2017.

 Kingcup and Astrophytum Asterias Cactus Plants with Color Accent

Raima choreographed and performed numerous performance art dance concerts and was one of many in a very creative tribe of dancers that performed all over Tucson during the 1970's. One of her daughter's fondest memories is her choreographing and dancing in the family kitchen/dance studio.

Tall, graceful, and full of spirit, Raima was a painter, fashion designer and model, children's art instructor, and dance instructor. In the 1970s, she and Tom spent summers in Silverton, CO, renovating historic houses. Always contributing, Raima taught dance classes and organized sock hops in the historic Silverton Town Hall and American Legion buildings. Below are some photos from her dance classes in Silverton.

"The women of Silverton would wait eagerly and impatiently for Raima and her family to arrive in town. Then the dance classes would begin twice a week, in the upstairs ballroom in the City Hall building. It brought us, women, together in a way that was unique and beautiful"

- Deborah Hart

Throughout her life, Raima was outspoken on issues of gender and ethnic equality and politics. She was part of a very dedicated group of barrio activists and brought energy and awareness to what is now known as Barrio Sin Nombre in Tucson. That is where she and her husband remodeled one of the oldest houses at the base of A Mountain. They also built an adobe apartment building, making some of the bricks in the yard of their old house this was a family effort in which Steven was instrumental in. They restored the Elysian Grove Market in the Barrio Viejo of Downtown Tucson into a three apartment building .

"Raima had a caring heart for family, friends, and the low-income community."

- Irene Echerverria.

Hand Drawn Cactus Prickly Pear

After Raima and Tom divorced, she would go on to renovate other historic houses in Barrio Viejo to create artistic rentals in the span of more than 30 years. Each renovation was an art project with beautiful tile inlays and stucco work staying true to the historical character, touches, and nuances of the Barrio. From 1979 to 1989, Raima built and lived in a house in Ouray, CO, designed by herself and Richard Wise, a fellow dance friend and architect who was a native of Ouray. Her daughter, Gretchen McArthur, now resides in that unique house.

“I greatly admired her work ethic, DIY know-how, independence, and artistic flair. Raima loved the Barrio and its history and it showed in how she lovingly restored and cared for her properties. She made a point to retain their historic character and funkiness - unlike many other property owners in Barrio Viejo.” - Denise

Raima was a true artist with a zest for life. Always on the go, she was driven to contribute to her community. An accomplished designer who dressed with style, and a fabulous cook, she took the time to make every meal or art project "just so." She loved to travel, connect with and make new friends abroad. Raima worked one fall in the vineyards of France in exchange for room and board. This was one of her favorite trips, which she often spoke about—anything to ensure an authentic experience.

Hand Drawn Cactus Prickly Pear

Raima is survived by her son Steven Wiper, daughter-in-law Tammy Wiper, her grandson, Devin Wiper, daughter Gretchen McArthur, and nephews and nieces in Phoenix and Northern California.

A celebration of life for Raima Chalmers has been canceled due to personal reasons. Please remember her in your hearts and on her birthday January 30th.

In lieu of flowers please support one of Raima's favorite causes in her name. Thank you.

Antique Road Show! - June 2001

 Succulent Plants Illustration