If there is any single resident who embodies the warm, friendly, and outgoing nature of Oakmont Livonia’s community, Rita might be a perfect choice. A natural people-person, and conversationalist with a caring heart, she effortlessly makes new friends and lights up every single room she enters. Her amazing story of family-focused living and passionate volunteering begins many miles away in the U.P.
From the U.P. to Detroit
Though she’s been a Michigander all of her life, Rita grew up just about as far away as you can get from her current home in Livonia: the city of Ishpeming in the state’s Upper Peninsula. When asked to describe life growing up in the U.P., Rita had one simple answer: “Cold.”
But like a true Yooper, She didn’t mind the frigid temperatures. “It was cold, but I didn’t mind it. You know, in a small town, you walk to school – there were no buses. I can’t ever remember there being a snow day – every day was a snow day.”
When she was 15, her family moved down to Detroit so her father could run a new business he bought in the city: an ice cream store. It was working here and helping her father that led Rita to eventually meeting the man she would marry. “The business my dad bought was an ice cream store and my husband loved ice cream – so that’s how I met him,” she said, laughing. “All through high school, I had to make banana splits and sundaes, and I hated it, but I did it.”
A Move to Garden City
Though her husband was home on leave from the Air Force when they first met, they didn’t lose touch, and soon married just a year after Rita graduated from Visitation Catholic High School in Detroit. The pair started their life living above the ice cream store, and thanks to a loan from Rita’s dad, they were able to buy a house in Garden City.
“I can still remember it was like $300 down and you could buy a house. So I went to my dad and said ‘can I get $300? We got the money from him and moved out to Garden City with our two-year-old and our 10-day-old newborn.”
Though the family continued to thrive, things weren’t always so rosy on the financial front. But, Rita’s husband was an extremely hard worker, and sometimes worked three jobs just to keep the family afloat. “My husband had grown up hungry and cold, so he always said his children would never go hungry or cold,” Rita said. “He’d bring home the paycheck and he’d say ‘first food.’ There had to be food on the table.”
Though she spent most of her time as a full-time mother to her children, Rita soon got the itch to do something more and entered back into the workforce. “When the kids got older, I was itching to get out and do something, so I would get jobs at places like St. Mary’s Hospital or Annapolis Hospital – but I would only work on weekends when he was home to watch the kids, because, who could afford a babysitter?” she said, laughing.
A Tireless Volunteer
When her youngest child entered school, Rita took on a more permanent job at Hudson’s – a company she’d work for for the next 38 years – retiring just 10 years ago at the age of 73. But retirement didn’t stop her from getting out and doing something new. “I used to always say, ‘someday when I retire, I’m going to be a volunteer at Garden City Hospital’ – so that’s what I did.”
Her volunteering days didn’t end there. Now, as a resident of Oakmont Livonia for the past 18 months, Rita volunteers her time at the community store – checking in with neighbors, staff, and anyone looking to have a friendly conversation. “I just love talking to people,” she says.
An avid reader and people person, Rita has found life at Oakmont Livonia an unexpected and ongoing pleasure. “I’m very happy here,” Rita said. “There’s a lot of things to do, and once I got well, I jumped right into living here with both feet. I just love it.”