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Howell; Rita Marie

Posted By Obits On February 25, 2020 @ 3:07 pm In Obituaries | 9 Comments

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Rita left us December 16th, 2019. And while her passing leaves a great void for those who knew her, it is tempered with the gratitude that we have been able to know this extraordinary and remarkable woman.

A native New Englander, she grew up in pre-war Connecticut. During the 1950’s, she moved to New York City to study acting while supporting herself as a commercial artist. Appearing on and off-Broadway, it was the lead role in ‘Little Mary Sunshine’ that really launched her career. The production ran for more than three years before she came to Canada in 1962. So began a career on stage and screen that lasted nearly five decades and made Rita something of a legend in theatre circles. From Stratford to the Neptune in Halifax she appeared on major stages from coast to coast. Playing everything from musicals to drama and comedy, she took on roles that she found challenging and illuminating.

Rita settled in Port Medway in the late 1980’s. And while her professional career had been as an actress, she never let go of her talents as an artist. Whether on the road or at home, there were always watercolours within reach and a jar of paint brushes waiting to be used.

Never one to sit idle….. she was an avid scrabble player, a tennis fan, gardener, a baker, master cook and hostess. She was an animal lover and devoted to her pets. She was D.I.Y. personified, with a complement of tools to build and fix just about anything. She was indeed quite the lady!

We get a peek at her sense of humour in a quote from the program for the 1968 Spring Thaw Review (which toured Canada from coast to coast). When asked about her association with the movies she replied:
“My father always said – ‘you keep going to those movies and they’ll warp your mind’. I think he was right – twice a week I got warped – but what else could a girl do on a Saturday night when her hobby at 14 was carpentry? And that’s how I got into Show Biz.”

Rita was predeceased by her sister Clare, her brother John, her partners, Marianne Bohdanetsky, and June Blewett.

A Celebration of the Life and Art of Rita Howell will be held in Port Medway in the spring 2020.

Make voyages! – Attempt them!- There’s nothing else…

(Tennessee Williams , from ‘Camino Real’,)

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Condolence from Martha Henry on February 25th, 2020 6:39 pm

This was a great lady – bawdy, terribly funny, a consummate actress, a loyal and devoted friend.
We will not see her like again.

Condolence from Douglas MacKay on February 25th, 2020 6:44 pm

Met Rita through my good friends Monique and Len Michalik. I think that one glimpse of Rita’s smile could light up your whole day. You sensed her love, curiosity and purpose towards life and learning. Rita did indeed have an extraordinary existence and touched a great number of people. She will be missed and of course better yet…she will be remembered.
There will be countless stories to be retold that involve Rita Howell.

Condolence from Bonnie Gimby on February 26th, 2020 5:53 am

Bill and I met Rita through long time friends of Rita. She welcomed us to her home many times. Rita was all the things people spoke of but I remember her kindness and great hugs .

Condolence from Aaron Cosbey on February 26th, 2020 11:36 am

It’s cliche to say someone’s one-of-a-kind. But not cliche for Rita. I didn’t come to know her until late in life. But even in her 70s and 80s, she was delightfully ferocious, and real in a way that so few people are. Of my mother’s (June’s) three partners, she was the only one that had a chance of keeping her in line.

Thanks, Rita, for burning so bright.

Condolence from Charles King on February 26th, 2020 4:04 pm

Those eyes ! And, the heart behind them .

Condolence from Shelly Burgess on February 28th, 2020 11:38 am

I first met Rita almost 30 years ago when I began working for her and Marianne at their home in Port. And continued on helping her after Marianne’s passing, until 2005. They introduced me to the idea of a “coffee break”, funnily foreign to me at the time. Rita often would have a homemade treat for me to enjoy and generously sent me home with a loaf of her own bread! She indeed was an avid gardener and gave me the “gardening bug ” as well. I will remember her fondly.

Condolence from Teresa Smiley on February 28th, 2020 5:24 pm

So sad to read this. Rita definitely was a special lady. She will be sadly missed but fondly remembered by all that knew her. Rest in Peace Rita. Sing and dance with the angels.

My sincere condolences,
Teresa Smiley

Condolence from Paddy Moore on May 29th, 2020 1:53 am

Rita was an inspiration to my young theatre career. She introduced me to Southern Comfort and taught me not to take myself so seriously. I was with her when her sister passed and will always cherish her memory.

Condolence from Mary Mackenzie on June 1st, 2020 1:35 am

Fond memories of wonderful neighbours in Toronto. As a girl, I loved dogs but never was allowed to have one. Rita asked me to walk Stella May, also known as Gus, for her as a regular gig, and I loved it. She and Gus had a way of making me feel special, seen, in a world that at that time felt a little precarious, typical of that age. She had a sense of sparkling humour and a wonderful hug that will never be forgotten.
Thank you Rita

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