In 1966, when he was nineteen, not much more than a boy really, he fell utterly in love with a girl who was so lovely, he caught his breath sometimes when he saw her. The sound of her voice brought him joy. Her name was Rita, a name derived from Margarita or Marguerite, from the Greek and Latin, means “pearl”. They could not be dissuaded by wiser parents and married in the winter of 1967, when they were twenty. Spenser Tracy played the father character in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”, a great Stanley Kramer film of the same period; he told his daughter, who could not be talked out of marrying a black man (Sidney Poitier), that they would face great difficulty with a marriage of mixed race, but when he realized they were truly and totally in love, he told the family the only thing worse than them marrying would be them not marrying. Rita and her young husband were in a similar state.
He hadn’t finished college, and Rita had just graduated as a registered nurse; she supported them for the first year and a half. After a brief January Cape Cod honeymoon on semester break, the couple moved into a third story walk up apartment near the campus of Smith College in Northampton, MA, while he finished his degree at the University of Massachusetts. He found summer work as a tree climber for an arborist company and paid for tuition and books. She started on a medical/surgical ward at Cooley Dickenson Hospital, where Ted Kennedy had recovered from a broken back suffered in the crash of a small plane. Very little extra money in the tin canister and they were completely happy.
More foolishness followed graduation. After a year living back close to their parents, they ventured west for a year in Colorado: he as a tree climbing foreman, she as a pediatric nurse at Boulder General. While there, their first child, Amy, was born, and they turned twenty three. A long period of a dalliance starting with the almost obligatory left wing politics of Boulder followed. After returning to Massachusetts, first Boston, then Cape Cod, they moved for a decade to rural Maine. In Maine, they survived the first real danger to their marriage in the midst of a long, cold winter, when the snow drifted halfway up the first story windows and cabin fever raged. After nine years of marriage and months of their winter of discontent, they were literally a day short of separation with two young children, Amy and Gabriel.
Reason, a return to the faith of their childhood, the grace of their sacrament and nothing short of a miracle intervened. They stuck it out. A difficult year later, their love bloomed again and never left them. A third child was born while in Maine – Angela. They moved to Rhode Island, and their fourth baby, Meg, came home.
Rita stayed at home to raise their children for many years, except for some part time work as an obstetrical nurse and teaching as a certified childbirth educator. When Meg started high school, she volunteered with the Diocese of Providence in their pro life office. Her experiences with maternity nursing, training young mothers to give birth and with her own premature baby (2 lbs) had forged in her a profound fervor for pro life issues.
She was hired as executive director of a crisis pregnancy center, Woman to Woman, and then was recruited as executive director of the state wide Rhode Island Right to Life organization. RIRTL offers material help to women in crisis pregnancies, educational talks at schools and churches, speeches at political rallies in the state house rotunda and maintains a legislative lobby. Rita did battle with newspapers, local television and legislators. Her writing became effective, and she spoke to crowds of hundreds. Upon her retirement, she received written commendations from both houses of the state legislature and the governor. She had dinner with governors, bishops and congressmen. None of which meant much to her, the commendations gather dust in a closet. What mattered to her were the babies and the mothers. She was astonished at this public turn of events, but her husband was not. Rita is a warrior.
Rita loves to read, especially history; she is a lifelong learner. Her active mind takes great pleasure in discussion of politics, cultural issues and history. Her husband and she like very much to walk in the woods or along a beach, holding hands and speaking of many things – sometimes the lives of their children, sometimes their grandchildren, and sometimes the volatile topics of the day. She favors a few deep friendships to which she is fiercely loyal and is a member of Red Sox Nation. Rita likes to sing and play her guitar. She draws well and enjoys sketching. Her Italian and Portuguese heritage helped her become a good cook. Her sometimes quick temper, which flows from her passionate nature, flairs far less frequently now, and they rarely have cross words. Her husband still loves her like life itself; Rita is the greatest blessing of his life, and he is grateful. The love of this young couple matured and will last them until death do them part.
Forty five years ago today they were married. Happy anniversary, beautiful.
Proverbs 31When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls. Her husband, entrusting his heart to her, has an unfailing prize. She brings him good, and not evil, all the days of her life.