Winthrop/Stuart, FL/Canton - Mrs. Rita Jean O’Connor, 81, passed away on Thursday October 4, 2018 at the Canton-Potsdam Hospital surrounded with the love and comfort of her family.
Arrangements are entrusted to Hammill Funeral Home in Winthrop.
Rita was born in Syracuse, New York on May 10, 1937 to the late Frank and Rita (Yager) Huston. She graduated from Fayetteville-Manlius Central School and earned her bachelor’s degree in education from the State University of New York Teachers College at Oswego.
On January 31, 1959 she married Robert Joseph O’Connor at the Immaculate Conception Church in Fayetteville, New York. Bob passed away on September 30, 1995 after a long battle with cancer.
Rita taught 5th and 6th grade at St. Lawrence Central School for her entire career until her retirement. She was passionate about teaching, always encouraging her students and truly caring for their wellbeing and success. She was a voracious reader whose vocabulary knew few peers. Her mind was sharp and she enjoyed the challenge of any type of puzzle. Word puzzles were her favorite, but she could do anything.
Rita and Bob loved to camp and visited most of the eastern United States and Canada with a hearty band of their closest friends. They took their first trip in a simple tent and caught the bug, purchasing a pop-up trailer shortly after their return. That led to a succession of trade-ups until they were riding in style behind the wheel of a beautiful motorhome. Most weekends during the warmer weather they could be found enjoying the “rustic life” at one of the campgrounds around the North Country.
After their retirement, Rita and Bob wintered in Stuart, Florida surrounded by many dear friends and fellow “snowbirds” from home. Porch parties and other good reasons to get together at the Cora Win Cove community filled their days and nights with joy and satisfaction.
After Bob’s death, Rita began volunteering for Hospice and The Kane Center in Stuart. It was there that she developed a “Thelma and Louise” type of friendship with someone that would kindle their mutual desire for adventure. The two ladies enjoyed traveling together both domestically and abroad, especially on an occasional trip to a casino.
For the past year and a half Rita has resided at Maplewood in Canton close to family. Making the best of her situation, Rita began reading to the children attending daycare in the building. The program was so well received by the children that they made it a regular part of their weekly schedule, dubbing it “Reading with Rita”.
Rita is survived by; her son and daughter-in-law, Tim and Darlene O’Connor of Canton, her daughter and son-in-law, Erin and John Southwick of Massena, and her daughter-in-law Kristin O’Connor of Pawtucket, Rhode Island; 4 grandchildren: Katie O’Connor, John O’Connor, Kelly Southwick, and Robbie Southwick.
Rita is predeceased by; her parents, her husband, a son, Tom O’Connor, previously of Attleboro, Massachusetts, and a brother, Lt. Col. Frank Huston previously of Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Visitation will be Monday, October 8 from 4 – 7 PM at the Hammill Funeral Home; 653 State Highway 11c Winthrop, NY 13697. Rita’s Funeral service and Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Tuesday at 11:00 AM at St. Patrick Church in Brasher Falls. Burial will follow in the parish cemetery.
Flowers are respectfully declined. For those wishing to express an act of kindness, memorial contributions can be made in Rita’s honor to Hospice and Palliative Care of St. Lawrence Valley and the Canton Day Care Center.
Memories and condolences can be shared with her family at www.hammillfh.com.