“Gratitude for the world and all of my extended Family”
This is the message that Rita Jo Ward shared continually with her community of family and friends. Our dear Mother, Grandmother, Great Grandmother and Gratitude Mother passed away on the late evening of Mothers Day, May 10, 2020. She went peacefully at home while holding the hand of her daughter, Lyn. She was 89.
She was preceded in passing, 2 years ago, by her husband of 68 years, Leo Ward, who was also 89. They had a long and rewarding life together with many changes and excitements. During the last two years of Rita’s life she focused on helping others with their personal development of gratitude and reflection of this wonderful short life we are blessed with. Rita finished high school in Berlin, Germany in the late 40’s where she saw the torments and savagery of war. This was the catalyst to her desire for a life of showing gratitude to all. She grew to become a master of sharing warmth, love and gratitude. Rita married Leo, an army corporal in 1950 and together they had 3 kids, Bill, Lynda and John in close succession and set out on a whirlwind life.
Rita and Leo decided to improve their lives and went to college while raising a family, becoming educators. Rita focused on grade school and became a reading specialist for the Southern California School district of Ramona. She truly enjoyed this profession but wanted more out of life and started learning pottery and ceramics as an outlet of artistic expression— the start of a changing and diverse life. Rita and Leo founded Terra Studios in the mid 1970’s. She was the inspiration in creating the Bluebird of Happiness and the mother of the magic that is Terra Studios. Later, after leaving Terra, Rita started Camp Bogglewomp, a pottery and art studio next to a creek in the hills of Durham, Arkansas. The studio was a place where many friends and family had a chance to learn the magic of clay and experience the feeling of gratitude that Rita would share and promote. Rita was the creator of Terrans, Endangered Species, Mother Gratitudes and many more clay sculptures during her decades of artistic expression. Her heart was warmed by clay and she loved sharing her creations with everyone. Rita loved walking her large labyrinth on top of Gratitude Hill and driving “Red Lady Bug,” her electric cart over the hill and through the woods to Camp Bogglewomp each day with her faithful dogs by her side. Rita wanted to bring the community together and did so by hosting many pot-luck gatherings around the large fire pit on the hilltop to celebrate solstices and equinoxes. The transitions of nature and seasons were her pleasure showing us that change can be growth. Rita started “Bean Day,” a Tuesday lunch gathering of family and a changing crew of invited friends to share in a meager meal and the passing of the quote basket containing a diverse and varied treasure trove of conversation starters. The conversations were stimulating and enlightening and help promote gratitude. Rita’s life was a blessing for many. She will be missed but not forgotten. Anyone who saw the sparkle in her eyes and experienced the warmth of her laugher that filled the room will know to share her gratitude forward.
No memorial is planned during these difficult times. Memorial contributions may be made to “Meals On Wheels” in Rita’s name.