Rhea Kathleen was born in the family home at Wray, CO, on February 20, 1929, the fourth of five children, to Clyde Grant and Dorthea (Hopkins) Pittenger. Hiqhly intelligent and quietly shy, she developed an early and ongoing love of books and learning. Rhea graduated from Wray High School as Valedictorian in 1947, and wanted more than anything else to go to college, but she was needed at home to help with her ailing father and grandmother. She took a job at the bank, and helped at home until, in the spring of 1948 she married John Barnett. They were the parents of seven children, Patty in 1949, Kathie in 1951,James in 1952, Barbra Ellen who died an infant, and three stillborns.
In 1958 . John moved to California to seek his fortune. and Rhea moved home to Wray with three young children. Life was not easy with only one income and three rapidly growing youngsters, but Rhea worked long, hard hours, learned typing and accounting and moved steadily up in the working world. From dishwasher and waitress at Farmer’s Café to secretary-bookkeeper at Consumer’s Co-op, and then the School District Office, she eventually earned the title of Business Manager for the RJ-2 School District – a position she loved and held until her retirement.
In 1982 she married Frances Benedetti, the love of her life, and embarked on a brand new adventure. After they retired in 1992, they wintered in Florida and later Arizona – but Wray was always ‘home’. In 2005, when she began to experience more difficulty because of Alzheimer’s, they came home for good.
Rhea loved to read, she did crossword puzzles in ink and Suduko was a favorite pastime. She played tennis for years, tried her hand at golf,and won many bowling trophies in the 1970′s. She loved photography, and like her father took pictures of anyone who would stand still, and every interesting bird, flower, and building that got in front of the lens. Photography led to a second hobby, scrap booking, and she spent hours clipping items from newspapers ,including every ad Granma’s Treasures ever printed. She took up gardening, and took adult education classes, for she had a great thirst for learning. Her favorite magazines were National Geoqraphic and Reader’s Digest, and she had every Condensed Book they ever printed! She was a long time member of Bonne Ami, and Heritage Club, and enjoyed many activities with her friends.
She loved to travel, and with Bene in tow saw much of the United States, Canada and Mexico. Her Albums are full of the plays and musicals they attended, Museums and Restaurants they visited , and many, many street scenes.
Her absolute favorite hobby of all time was her Grandchildren and Great Grandchildren. She loved taking them shopping, swimming, to plays and on vacations. She loved reading to them, playing tennis and golf with them, taking pictures of them, and just looking at them. She considered each one to be beautiful, brilliant, and a perfect gift. And much easier to raise then her own, since they could always go home.
On Saturday , May 18, 2013, Rhea went home for the last time. She will be met by her parents. brothers Robert and Wilbur and his wife Belva, sisters Betty Jo and Diana, daughter Barbra Ellen, grandson John Kenneth (Skipper) Lords, niece Marie, and all those friends who went on ahead.
She is survived by her husband, Francis of Ft Collins, two daughters ,Patty (and John) Zion and Kathie Lords .and one son. James Barnett of Brush. Their families include Shelley Zion, Jasmine and Jamica of Denver, Heather Mosenteen, Anthony and Alex of Sterlinq, Theo Zion of Denver, Mike (and Kim) Zion, Tylinn and Kenzie of Ovid, and Mark Zion, Stephanie Lords, Damien, Kiara, Alysa,and Eric, Dan (and Kelly) Barnett and Calvin of Bodega CA, and Anne (and Skip) Kelley and Porter of Imperial NE, Francis’ children and their families, and many other relatives and friends.
A memorial service was held on Saturday, May 25, 2013, 2:00 p.m. at the First Christian Church in Wray, Colorado with Rev. Steve Wynkoop. Memorials may be made to Hospice of the Plains, Wray Public Schools or Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado. Spellman-Schmidt Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.