Mary Rai 

Mary Rai (November 12, 1922 – June 13, 2013) was a proud member of the Punjabi-Mexican community in the Yuba City area.  She was born in Tolleson, Arizona to a Punjabi Sikh immigrant father, Bishan Singh Gill, and a mother of Mexican heritage, Ernestine Zuniga Singh.  After serving in the British Army, her father arrived in the US in 1909 and worked in various farming jobs.  Eventually, he settled in Arizona to grow cotton where met his wife and raised five children.  Mary Rai’s family reflected the unique blend of Punjabi, Mexican and American cultural influences in the postwar period.  She grew up in the Catholic faith, but also retained much of her Punjabi culture.  She raised her children to attend the Catholic Church.  She also encouraged them to appreciate their Punjabi Sikh culture.  When she moved to Yuba City, she was one of only a handful of women with Punjabi heritage.  She lived in Yuba City for 66 years with her husband, Lal Singh Rai, where they raised two children, Leela and David.  She also assisted with the family farm business, and became a business woman working in real estate. 

To learn more about Mary Rai and her family, visit: Lal Singh and Mary Rai.

Sources: Mary Rai Interview, The Kamla Show, October 5, 2012; Interview with David Rai by Nicole Ranganath, September 19, 2018.

Mary Rai (lower left) at the Indian Counsel dinner, Stockton, CA, 1952.

Mary Rai (right) talking to Paramjit Sidhu (middle) and an unknown friend, Rai home, Live Oak, CA, c 1953.  Courtesy: David Rai.

Interview with Mary Rai, The Kamla Show, October 5, 2012.

Mary Rai’s daughter, Leela Rai, explains how her mother taught herself to read Punjabi, Sept, 12, 2013.