Rita Mary Holt (1913-2009)

Rita Holt at Louis Ginter Botanical Gardens (July, 2008)

Rita Mary Holt passed away at the age of 95 on the evening of Wednesday, March 4, 2009, dying at home in the arms of her loving daughter Annette. Rita was a devoted and witty wife and mother, an amateur paleontologist and connoiseur of fine art, and served the City of Richmond as volunteer registrar and costumer for the City Dance Program for the first twenty years of its existence.

Rita Holt was born October 2, 1913 in Wembley, England. In the late 1930s she excelled as a competitive women's golfer. During World War II Rita served as a Red Cross nurse in London during the German bombing. At the end of the war she met an American Army Air Force intelligence officer, Lt. Edward Holt, and in 1947 married him in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She later became a naturalized American citizen.

During the early years of their marriage, Rita accompanied her husband on many fossil-hunting trips to the American Southwest with a group of paleontologists from the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Her husband was recalled to active duty during the Korean War, and the family was stationed in West Germany, England and the U.S. Edward remained in the Air Force after the war, serving at the Pentagon in his last assignment. Upon his retirement, the family returned to London, where Rita and Edward became avid collectors of fine art, specializing in English water colors and 17th-century paintings.

In 1972 they returned to the US to live in Baltimore and were joined in 1975 by their daughter Annette after an injury ended her London performing career as a ballerina. For the next four years Rita sewed hundreds of costumes for Annette's pioneering Baltimore inner-city ballet program sponsored by the Cultural Arts Project of the Model Cities Program.

When Annette began her 30-year careeer as a dance educator with the City of Richmond's Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities in 1979, Rita and Edward followed her to Richmond. Rita accompanied her daughter to ballet classes at many housing project community centers, serving as registrar and head costumer. She continued to volunteer after the City Dance program was centralized at the Pine Camp Cultural Arts Center, signing students up for classes and sewing beautiful costumes for the thousands of Richmond children over the years for whom she was an honorary grandmother.

In her later years, Rita enjoyed a rich and fulfilling intellectual and social life with her many dear friends from Emmanuel Episcopal Church and the Westminster-Canterbury retirement community. She is survived by her daughter Annette and countless friends and admirers for whom her gracious manner, ready wit and smiling face made her a greatly beloved figure.

A memorial service will be held Tuesday, March 10th at 11:00 am at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, 1214 Wilmer Avenue, Richmond. In lieu of flowers, donations are requested for Rita's favorite charity, Friends of City Dance.