Rita Kelly (1916-2006) | SteamboatToday.com
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Rita Kelly (1916-2006)

Longtime Steamboat Springs resident Rita Kelly passed away on the evening of June 24, 2006. She was 90.

She was born May 22, 1916, in Mendota, Ill., and resided in Mendota until 1947. Mrs. Kelly graduated from Nauvau High School, an all girls’ Catholic school.

Rita married Francis Kelly in 1935. From 1955 to 1961, Mr. and Mrs. Kelly became the proud parents of three children. Mr. Kelly passed away in October 1985.



The Kellys moved to Mount Harris in 1947 and made their home in a log cabin.

In 1949 they purchased their home on Merritt Street. Rita raised not only her three children, but also tenderly and lovingly took other children under her care. She babysat nearly every available child in Steamboat Springs from 1955 until 1998. Everyone knew her as Grandma Rita. Rita cared for children for so many years that she eventually cared for those children’s children. Just about every grown child in town has a story about playing in Rita’s backyard, playing on the old tire and drinking lemonade from her kitchen.



Growing up in a farm country in the open plains of Illinois, Rita learned the skills to tend her beloved large garden. She loved to grow green beans, strawberries and horseradish, carrots and cabbage. She generously shared her harvest with anyone who stopped by the house.

The house Rita lived in until her death was the same house in which she raised all her children.

Anyone who knew Rita knew she was a woman of compassion. There is not a person in the world she wouldn’t help. The children with whom she surrounded herself always came first. She always was there to provide a chocolate chip or molasses cookie.

Rita lived her life with kindness, care and devotion to those around her — family, friends and neighbors. If you were in need, Rita would use her midwestern culinary skills to whip up a batch of cinnamon rolls or lemon bars. She would immediately start praying to St. Jude, St. Anthony or one of her many saints on your behalf. There were many who believed Rita had a direct line to Heaven. She generously opened her home to travelers and students. You often would find people living with Rita, short- and long-term, who needed a place to stay until they could get out on their own.

Rita was a passionate and tireless member of the Holy Name Catholic Church. She cared for the kitchen and all its activity with love, creativity and tenderness for many years. She served as a member of the Altar Society and was a member of the Ladies of Routt County. She was a Blue Bell leader for the local Girl Scouts. Rita was a Eucharistic Minister for her church and faithfully visited the old and the ailing at the Routt County Extended Care and Doak Walker Care Center, taking them Holy Communion on Sundays and holy days.

She belonged to the Ladies Auxiliary of the Routt County Memorial Hospital. Rita volunteered in local school classrooms and read stories to students at Soda Creek Elementary, Strawberry Park Elementary and The Lowell Whiteman Primary School for 12 years.

She also loved to play cards with her friends including games of euchre and pinochle.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Francis Kelly; her brothers, Leo, George and Johnny; her sisters, Lucy and Kathryn; and her parents, Lucy and Steve Guilfoyle.

She is survived by her children, Kevin and his wife, Nina Kelly, of Tucson, Ariz., Dennis and his wife, Rong-Rong Kelly, of Albuquerque, N.M., Bridget and her husband, Kevin McNamara, of Steamboat; 23 nieces and nephews; and seven grandchildren.

Services for Rita were held July 1, 2006, at Holy Name Catholic Church. Interment was at the Steamboat Springs Cemetery.

Those desiring to honor Rita’s life may send donations to the Grandma Rita Memorial Scholarship Fund at The Lowell Whiteman Primary School at P.O. Box 770723, Steamboat Springs, CO 80477.


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