Rita was born, in Philadelphia, on June 12, 1922.
She lived through the Depression and World War II.
She met the ‘lid for her pot’ when she was 19 and married her love, Charles, when only 20. It was a marriage that thrived for 61 years, “until death…” caused a part.
Rita and Charles were lovers and business partners. They opened a Photography Studio in NYC and also a School in Philadelphia, that taught returning GIs the trade of photography.
I knew her as a colleague, and only recently realized she began her 35 years-long Real Estate Career at age 58. She continued to sell until age 92! Earlier, she was model and muse; photographer, stylist and teacher; a Bridal Store manager, (when her mother needed help at “Blue Bird Bridal” on South Street), and a ticket-seller & promoter for her son, Phillip Roger Roy’s many productions.
Rita was the original “Gig-worker”. She was beautiful, brilliant, curious, flexible, gracious, hard-working and loyal. She had stamina and a “can-do” attitude and recognized there were times to quit, times to keep going, and times to fall up. She never shied away from a challenge.
Her first ‘job’/passion was family. She loved and marveled at her children, Robin, Vicki and Phil. She adored their children and felt blessed to meet 10 great grandchildren. She instilled good values, and was willing to be their first, and later go-to, employer or professional reference, to insure that they stayed on paths toward their independent successes.
I enjoyed seeing Rita and Charles together. I mean this in the best way when I say, they reminded me of Morticia and Gomez Addams. I am sure time (a 1991 production) and oversized personalities were key to my belief. Charles adored Rita. He was her chauffer and tall handsome helpmate. She was his muse. 61 years into the marriage, he seemed to thrill at her attention. There was PDA in his hand reaching out to adjust her collar or sleeve. They liked, loved and laughed at each other. They happily made sacrifices for family and friends. They recognized quality and made beautiful homes in I.M. Pei buildings.
At work, Rita advertised herself as “the mother of all Realtors” and was not unaware of the double entendre. Truth was her motherliness, her natural happiness, grace, concern and integrity were part of a recipe for repeat business and “double-pops’. It also made her a bit of a hero to us other working moms.
Rita joined Jackson Cross in 1980, she quickly became a top agent. I met her through Real Estate, and when I joined J-C in 1984 she was already a star. Residential Real Estate is a ‘commission’s only’ business and could be cut-throat. The Mamet play Glengarry Glen Ross came out as a movie in 1992. It shows the dark side of the business. Rita rolled along on the light side. She recognized competition as another challenge, and cooperation as a path to career longevity and success. In 1986 she was at the top of her game and I was an up-and-comer. At the Philadelphia REALTOR AWARDS ceremony, she was awarded some top prizes. I was the long-shot who won “Most Listings Sold”. I was young and lean, with a 36” in-seam, wearing some faddy asymmetrical Japanese mini-dress. An agent who won a few top prizes, made her resentment of my win clear, even openly calling me “unprofessionally dressed” like a “space alien stork”. Rita reminded me that jealousy is unattractive, and that, as she had been a stylist, her opinion of my outfit, “Looks great!”, carried more weight.
It was fun to work with Rita. When her son had unsold seats at his cabaret theater, Grendel’s Lair, Rita would gift us with tickets. Phil’s shows were not boring. Rita took his penchant for controversy, nudity and satire in stride. She’d work at the Ticket Window and was at ease with naked show girls as with Jazz legends, well-heeled customers and the denizens of South Street.
Recognizing that selling an older female face might be a liability, she was an advocate for herself. At age 70, in a 1992 Daily News article about Philadelphia’s Top Real Estate Producers, Rita said: “Age is really a matter of the mind. … at this point in my life, my competition is the age of my children. … I enjoy going out with these young couples and singles. I’m having fun.”
When I got married, on May 24, 1994, Rita was one of the few colleagues I invited to the reception, in Woodland Cemetery. She had just gotten a car phone, and she and Charles kept running out to check messages. She may have been one of the older Agents, but she was among the first to embrace new technologies in the service of her clients.
I enjoyed working with Rita. My world feels a little diminished with her passing.
I wish all who loved her easy access to great memories and am confident that there are many!
I like to imagine her, reunited with Charles, beaming down on their descendants who were the favorites of their many successes,