My Mother, nicknamed Rita, was born on the original Armistice day in 1918 in The Detroit metro area. She was the second oldest of four siblings. Unlike her older sister Dorothy, Rita loved to help care for her little brother and sister.
When she was around age eight, Her Mother was sent to to a Toledo hospital to be treated with advanced breast cancer. Grandpa Al Heatley drove all four children to see their Mother each Sunday after church. I found a letter written by Rita to her Mother .
Dear Mommie, We are beling good and taking care of the cleaning and watching each other. Baby Albert misses you very much. We are praying for you to come home soon.
Grandma Annie didn’t recover and she died in the late 1920’s
The Depression of 1929 hit hart on the Heatley’s. A widower, with four young children, Al had to hire a person to care for the children and cook the meals. Al was a barber. When money was tight, people cut their own hair.
In her early teens, Rita was sent to Aunt Emily and Uncle Leo’s farm in Imaly City. She was amazed that she could go into the garden and pick a
tomato or pull a carrot and eat it.
Rita had been giving some of her food portion to her siblings. This behavior continued when she was our Mother. She divided the food in sevenths but she always had the smallest portion.
She had hope to go to college but with only the five hundred dollars left from her Mother’s will, she opted for Cleary Business school. She was able to keep finacial books and perform secretarial tasks.
When WWII was declaired, Rita worked at the Willow Run plant, turning out bombers. She traveled with her husband , Bruce to Florida and then to California while he was in the Marines. She continue to work for military officers as a secretary.
After the war, she wanted to stay in California but Dad convinced her to return home to Northville because they both had aging parents.
Settling in a rental cottage in Wall Lake. Rita started to save for a new home in Northville.
Rita could make a nickel stretch to buy a quarter’s worth of food. With coupons, day old bread and over ripe bananas , she baked muffins, and kept five growing children clothed and fed.
My Mother had a deep draw to her Catholic faith. She onced joked that if she hadn’t married my Dad, she would have been a nurse or a nun. Good thing for us kids, she married!
After twenty years, we siblings still tell stories about my Mother’s frugal ways. Such as the ten cent bunch of bananas or eat peanut butter or cereal if you are hungry and who gets the last muffin continue to be told at family gatherings.
Rita’s children and friends owe much to this quiet woman. Her way of making a person feel at home and welcomed in our home will be remembered. One of her friends called her a Super Mom.
I know that Rita would hate all this praise, but I know that we were blessed to have her as our Mother.
Since this is also Veterans Day, My poem will be about the two Veterans in my family, My Dad and brother Mike.
Side by Side
side by side two benches stand
equal in size and width
Mirror images of each other
for a Father and son veterans of two different wars
In life they walked side by side
like soldiers in formation
simular in height and manner
sharing the same crooked smile
side by side they wait on the village green
offering rest and support to passers by
remembered by those that loved them
forever like sentinels side by side