Rachel was the only child of John Ellsworth and Zelma Helen (Keller) Wolfe. She was named for her grandmother, Rachel Samantha (Fraley) Keller, who in her turn was named for her own grandmother, Rachel (Groves) Fraley. The middle name of Helen, while the same as her mother's name, was chosen in memory of her father's young sister who died at only 10 years old.
When this Rachel was still at home, her family lived in East St. Louis, Illinois, where she and her mother were active in church work, and where she graduated from high school. She had an outstanding singing voice and went to study vocal music at Millikin College in Decatur, Illinois.
She married Charles Albert Palis 30 June 1951 in East St. Louis, St. Clair County, Illinois. They had two sons, Mike and Tom, while living there, and then moved their family to Cape Girardeau, Missouri, where the boys grew up. Charles taught science in the junior high school, and the whole family was very active in the First Baptist Church. Both sons eventually became Baptist ministers in their own right.
When the boys were older, Rachel returned to college and finished her degree in education at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau. She began her teaching career at Altenburg School. Later, she moved on to Oak Ridge District, completing a Master's Degree in Special Education and teaching it at Oak Ridge. She retired from teaching a year after her husband Charles died.
In retirement, Rachel's main focus was her First Baptist Church. She had long been a member of the chancel choir, and had helped with the handbell choir. She taught a Sunday School class for many years, and spent several years on the decoration committee which oversaw the seasonal and special occasion ornamentation of the church. She took classes in the making of religious banners and created several which still hang in the church's sanctuary. Her focus with the banners was to convey a spiritual message based on Biblical passages. She had a thirst for learning, and delighted in the new insights she gained through her research for the banner projects.
Cooking was a lifelong passion for Rachel. She rejoiced in providing exceptionally good food for her family and her friends. For several years, she supervised and chose menus for all the church's dinner meetings and banquets. She read cookbooks like other people do novels - checking out great stacks of them from the public library as well as using her own extensive collection of cookbooks until each one was worn and limp. One of her greatest joys was the pleasure she gave her family for the special treats she always had ready when they came to visit.
Her husband, her sons and her one grandson, Chris, were the light of her life. She was thrilled to live long enough to meet her great-grandchildren, Mia and Marlee, to learn of Miles' birth, and had hoped to be able to know them better than her time allowed. She had welcomed Sandy, Debbie, and Jen when her sons and grandson brought them into the family, and rejoiced when her extra free time later in her life allowed her to get to know more and more of her extended family.
Her own immediate family was small. Her father was the only child from his family to survive into adulthood, and her mother's two younger sisters and their brother remained exceptionally close throughout their lives. Rachel, the oldest of only three grandchildren born in the family, was a mainstay for all of them when they reached old age. She was there to care for her mother during her untimely early death, then to help her aunts and uncle when her grandmother became infirm. When the aunts and uncle and her closest first cousin Dick died, Rachel was faithful to the end, visiting often and bring treats of food to cheer them up.
She was very smart, very talented, and very special.