Rita Ann Wheelan
November 24, 1942 - July 18, 2021
“The death of a mother is the first sorrow wept without her.”
Our beloved mother passed away at her home in Simi Valley, California on July 18, 2021. Rita Ann (Menkhaus) Wheelan was born in Breese, Illinois on November 24, 1942 to Anthony and Veronica (Korte) Menkhaus. Rita is survived by her four children: Jamie (Brett) Emmeluth of Castle Pines, Colorado, Kristina (Butch) Marshall of Paducah, Kentucky, Jason (Kellie) Wheelan of Couer D’Alene, Idaho and Jennifer Frankel of Simi Valley, California. Eleven grandchildren: Sasha (Chris) Villa, Michala Moore, Garrett (Caitlyn) Frankel, Jaden Emmeluth (fiancé Cody MacIntyre), Savanna Frankel, Kuryn Emmeluth, Sequoia Wheelan, Georgia Frankel, Roan Wheelan, and Sawyer Frankel. Two great-children: Keenan Villa and Aja Villa. Rita is also survived by her siblings, Philip (Carole) Menkhaus and Susie Mitchell. She was preceded in death by her parents, her infant son, Brett Wheelan and her grandson, Jarrett Moore.
Rita spent her time after graduating high school in Washington, DC working for Admiral Rickover. Originally she wanted to become an airline stewardess but decided to move back to Carlyle, get married and have babies. Rita had five babies in six years...so she found herself pretty busy being a mama. In 1974, she moved to California with her four young children and found great success as a sales representative for Kent H. Landsberg Co. Rita retired in 2002 and returned to Carlyle where she enjoyed living next door to her sister. She was involved in St Mary’s Church, St. Anne Sodality, joined a bowling league, and enjoyed being a part of her childhood community and reconnecting with her many friends. In 2011 she moved back to California and thoroughly enjoyed being Grandma to her grandchildren.
However, Rita was not your typical grandma - she was the epitome of a cool grandma. She would do anything for a laugh especially if it was for her grandkids. She Tik Tok’d, she danced, she said whatever she thought - no filter. She would remind all of us we only lived once, so make sure once is enough. She was the last one to leave any party, called anyone that couldn’t keep up with her a “pansy-ass”.
Rita would not want it known that she died as a result of being stubborn, refusing to follow doctor’s orders and raising hell for almost eight decades. She loved her cherry pies, pinot grigio, her pups, playing cards with her grandkids, with money, of course. She was not a believer that you should “let” the kids “win”. She believed everything looked better with a little flair added to it. If there was music - she was dancing.
Growing up with our mom, she made us tough and independent. We still often say, “What do you expect? We were raised by Rita Wheelan…” You do not stay home from school unless you’re really sick, you made sure those dishes were done, the front door was back on the hinges and the holes patched before she walked in the door from work. But every single night she said “I love you” to us. We knew we were loved.
She was a self made woman - all of her success was because of her sacrifices she made for us and her hard work. When she finally “made it” she didn’t just buy one Cadillac, she bought two! We are so happy our mom was able to enjoy nearly twenty years of her retirement to travel and just enjoy her life she worked so hard for.
She loved a good party and would make us crazy with her sometimes cringe-worthy always inappropriate stories. You knew good - maybe a little questionable advice was about to be delivered when she started her sentence with “Mine is…”
We know we drove her crazy with our “rules and guidelines” when she would reply with a sarcastic “Okay, boss!” or “Yes, ma’am!”. We should’ve known better than to tell her what to do. She was our “fun-size” feisty mom and grandma. She was our “Sticks” and our “Lady of Leisure”. She loved reading her newspapers (nothing could be started until she was done with them). She would talk to anyone and everyone. She was the heart and soul of our family. She was our home. She lived life the exact way she wanted too. We know how lucky we were to have had her for so long and we know if she had lived to be 112 we would still want more time with her.
Rita worked her little tush off and it is now our honor and privilege to send her off with the party she has definitely earned in her 78 years here with us.
Cheers Momma! We will miss you every single day. We love you more. xoxo
“You were my home, mother. I had no home but you.”