Rita Ann Leahy Lanier, the only child of Ann and Sylvester Leahy, was born September 27, 1923 in Cleveland, OH. While her 7 childhood years in Ohio included memories of family, camping, and a special bond with her mother, it was the following 90 years in Albuquerque that provided most of her legacy.
While volunteering at a local theatre, Rita met Chuck Lanier, beginning a relationship that would culminate in more than 70 years of marriage. Their short 3-month courtship led to a wedding on September 4, 1948. Thus began the shared life of an Albuquerque couple characterized by the adage “behind every great man is an even greater woman.” Chuck’s accomplishments in business and civics were made possible by the wife who served as his most ardent fan and supporter.
In contrast to the majority of humanity, advancing age never seemed to slow Rita down. If anything, it sped her up. Her boundless energy began at a young age and held constant. As a mother of 5, a dedicated hostess, and a supporter of her husband’s numerous ventures, Rita lived life with a commitment to every engagement. She was devoted to her husband, active in the lives of her children, always maintained an immaculate home, and never left doubt about her role as “Captain of the Ship” at 804 Monroe NE.
Her children unanimously agree that the title of hostess is one where Rita’s talents shined brightest. Family celebrations, gatherings of friends, and business socials are amongst the countless events where Rita’s efforts provided the backdrop of a social event. Invitations for Rita’s events were coveted, and guests could expect anything from drinks on the patio (regularly) to chartered buses providing transport to live entertainment in the mountains (She and Chuck’s 25th Anniversary).
Rita’s talents contributed to her legacy. Her gift of sewing has led to women in her family cherishing clothing made by their mother, mother-in-law, or grandmother. Her gift for creative writing led to an annual tradition of birthday card poems sent from Albuquerque. Whether golfing, playing bridge into her 90’s, following her beloved Lobo’s, or appreciating flowers on her back patio, Rita’s life was one of intention and engagement.
Characteristic of her seemingly endless stores of energy, Rita also made time to give back. She was a natural leader and contributed to the community as President of Beta Sigma Phi, President of the Albuquerque Country Club Women’s Golf Association, Eucharistic Minister at Aquinas Newman Center (UNM Campus), President of Assistance League of ABQ, Den mother of Cub Scouts, and Leader of Girl Scouts. She also contributed to multiple charitable organizations, El Ranchito de los Ninos in Los Lunas amongst them.
Travel presented a special joy to Rita. She and Chuck often reminisced of their time in China, a trip that left long-lasting memories. Whether in Europe, Canada, New Orleans, Newport Beach, or elsewhere, Rita was ready to embrace opportunities travel provided. And yet, despite many long-distance travels, it is perhaps the domestic opportunities with the Winnebago Winos that will be most remembered amongst those who knew her best.
Rita’s was a life well lived, rooted on the bedrock of faith. Her unshakeable faith was a blessing to all, especially her husband and children. She was a faithful servant who raised her children to know and love God, the Gospel, and the importance of Church. Her life was a witness to the power of prayer. She ran a good race, and her family has peace knowing that she was greeted in heaven with the scripture “Well done good and faithful servant.” (Matt 25:23)
It is perhaps most fitting to allow Rita’s own wishes to offer our conclusion. Her wishes were simple, and perhaps common, and yet also represent a glimpse on where she placed her priorities. Rita asked to be remembered for a happy marriage, wonderful children and grandchildren, and for enjoying their many friends in Albuquerque. After 97 years of living life at full speed, it is consoling to know that her deepest joys were rooted in time with family and friends. We should all be so lucky.
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