We Remember

LEMON, Rita (nee Manz)

June 21, 2024 — June 21, 2024

Rita age 77, passed away peacefully, surrounded by her loving family, on Nov. 24, 2015 as the result of a massive stroke.  Rita was pre-deceased by her parents, Georg and Kathi Manz, of Regina, and by an infant older sister Charlotte.  She is survived by her husband of fifty-five years, Bob, and by her three daughters, Deanna Eckford (Colin), Karen Armitage, and Michelle Marshall (Lance), by her sister Lydia Dagg (Tom), and her brothers Herbert (Alvina) and George (Denise), and by numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins in both Canada, the USA, and Europe.  Since 1992 she has been delighted by a growing crowd of grandchildren: Jason and Kevin (Deanna), Nicholas, Spencer, and Eric (Karen), and Andrea and Scott (Michelle).

Rita was born in 1938 as a part of the German-speaking community of Bukovina in what is now southern Ukraine, then Romania. When Rita was two her family was removed to a camp in Poland, before being relocated to Krenau, where her father, a master furniture maker, owned a carpentry shop.  War drew closer, and Rita remembered hiding in the corn field, as bits of airplane fell around her from the battle above.  In 1945 the family, absent Georg, who had been conscripted into the German army, fled on the last train from Krenau from the advancing Russian army, and wound up in Austria.  Reunited with father Georg through the Red Cross, they worked there for four years before fleeing at night over the mountains to Germany, and lived in camps again until they established in Darmstadt, where the family rebuilt a ruined apartment block.    Rita and her siblings helped by cleaning bricks after school, and various other menial jobs.  Thus her early years were often marked by fear, poverty, and hard work, with the years in Austria a much-loved memory of rural happiness.  Rita got her first doll at age twelve.

The family migrated to Regina in 1953, and Georg worked in construction, and began a process of independent enterprise that resulted in the ownership of four houses at the time of his death.  The children went to school, Rita in a program of half-day work and half-day study.  She proved gifted in language and secretarial skills, and was hired, accent free, as lead secretary to the head of a major law firm.  She met Bob at a house party in her home arranged by her brother for his first-year university class (Luther College). Lights flashed, trumpets sounded, and the universe shifted for both, and they have been together ever since.

After their marriage in 1960 they moved to Saskatoon, where Bob was finishing up his degrees, and Rita got work as secretary to the registrar.  Deanna was born in 1961.  They moved to Regina the following year where Bob started teaching at Central Collegiate.  Karen was born in 1962, and Michelle in 1964.  Rita’s hands were obviously full as a young mother, and her skills as a seamstress were put to full use.  But she did get part time work in their church.  A major change in Rita’s life began in 1971 with Bob’s appointment to teach in the army schools in West Germany.  They lived happily there for two years, travelling a lot and benefiting from Rita’s fluency in German, as did her English-only compatriots.  This was a wonderful time for Rita, as she took full advantage of the many travel opportunities arranged for dependents, but nevertheless she got work in a German lawyer’s office, formatting and translating his Canadian clients’ problems.

Rita and the family discovered skiing in Europe and at the end of the two year posting decided that B.C. was the place to be, so they relocated, and have been in Kelowna ever since.  Rita immediately looked for work, and eventually hired on with the school district.  There she spent nineteen enormously satisfying years working with several different staff and principals, many of whom became life-long friends.  These years were also highlighted by her daughters’ weddings, and by trips to China and Europe.  But most important for Rita was the arrival in 1992 of her first grandchild, followed for the next several years at regular intervals with six more, to Rita’s great delight and enormous pleasure and pride.

Several trips to Europe made her realized she was the only German speaker in the family, and that her family history might be lost.  So she became an accomplished genealogist, building an enormous file on her German ancestry.  But her great gift to the family was her carefully researched and beautifully written account of her early life, The Last Train from Krenau, which has given real joy to those who have read it.

Rita’s soft-spoken appearance concealed a woman of enormous talents.  She was a faithful Christian, a linguist and translator, a writer, a genealogist, a golfer and skier, an outstanding cook and hostess, a gardener, a very successful secretary, a seamstress, a very good dancer, and much more.  She was unable to resist a baby, and ran the nursery at the church for several years.  She loved caring for the elderly in Cottonwoods and elsewhere, making friends as she went. But most of all she was a loving wife, mother, grandmother, sister, and friend, who we will miss very much.

The family would like to thank the staff on the 6th Floor, Strathcona Bldg., KGH, for their loving care, specially Dr. Meckling, Margaret, Faye, and Tom, always professional and tenderly human, while patiently working around the constant stream of visitors. The funeral and celebration will be held at St. Michael’s Cathedral, 580 Richter St., Kelowna, on December 28 at 2:00 pm, followed by a reception in the Tinker Room.  We thank Springfield Funeral Home for making the preliminary arrangements.  In lieu of flowers, gifts can be made to St. Michael’s or to the Canadian Red Cross, her favorite charity.     For those wishing to send a condolence, photos or share memories, may do so by scrolling down this page to the area called “Share Your Condolences.”

December 28 at 2:00 pm

St. Michael’s Cathedral

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