Sunset through stalks of wheat

Remembering Rita: A Tribute

Remembering Rita: A Tribute

by Bill High

Marty told me she’d ask a lot of questions. And she did. Rita arrived for our first meeting, prompt, with a sense of urgency and a leather folio with a legal pad. We had a pleasant but brief interchange of life experiences, but we soon bore down to the matter at hand. They were considering a switch related to their foundation.

Part of her previous life included a stint in the private practice of law. I could tell she was good at it. She was crisp, organized and her questions were to the point. But fair questions. Rita just wanted to know the truth.

It seemed there were two or three meetings like that. Rita was doing her homework, and just like that she was ready. The decision went to the board, and the switch was made. Over the years, I continued to see Rita work in the same way.

Always prompt. A call to order meant getting to business. Start on time, end on time. Professional, courteous, and always the good sharp questions because she wanted to know the truth. You couldn’t help but like her—winsome because she just did things right.

But over the years, I have to say that I was privileged to have her call me from time to time. We talked about the foundation and her commitment to philanthropy. She liked helping the little guy, but at the same time, she wanted to make as much a difference as she could in her community and the world.

Sometimes we talked of family. She loved her husband. We mutually called him a Renaissance Man—he was good at so many things and interested in so many things. She cared about the next generation. She so desired that they would carry on well. I experienced her own generosity. Always at Christmas there was a plant, a wreath and usually an extra grant to our ministry. She wanted to say thanks. And she was good about saying thank you.

I guess we all do it. We take it for granted that life as we know it will be the same. But it doesn’t stay the same. I remember the phone call. Rita called and told me that the cancer was back. She’d fight it and wrestle with it. But it was still hard.

Now after all these years, Marty called me again. We needed to make plans for Rita’s successor. Even as she neared the end of her life, she was making plans for the future—future leaders, future generations, future giving.

I’m not sure how to bring this handful of words to a conclusion. I practiced law for more than a decade and have now been in the foundation world for 20 years. Along the way, I’ve had the rich opportunity to meet some incredible people, and they touch your heart in profound ways. And with their passing, you feel a void, measurable and long.

I write to remember Rita—one of those wonderful, incredible friends who lived a generous life. Peace.


Photo by Ann Savchenko on Unsplash

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Published May 1, 2020

Topics: Lessons with Bill

Family GenerosityFoundationsTribute

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