Rita Derise Dearing
Rita Derise Dearing, age 89, passed peacefully on the afternoon of June 19, 2020, in Covington, Louisiana. Known as Mom and Mamere to her eight children, seventeen grandchildren and seventeen great-grandchildren, she was the youngest of four children born to a devoutly Catholic, French-speaking, sugarcane-farming family in Jeanerette, Louisiana. Being the baby of the family, some say she was pampered a little (or a lot) in various ways, like her mother serving her Café au lait in bed every morning as a child. (She would want everyone to know she disputes the accuracy of that oft-told story.) Those who knew her even casually know of her intense “love” for the game of tennis. When she was 13, her daddy sacrificed a small portion of his sugarcane field to build her a rudimentary dirt tennis court with a wire fence serving as the net. Her passion for tennis lasted her entire life, keeping her active and providing her many cherished friendships. Due to knee problems, she finally had to give up the game in her early eighties. To satisfy her unabated tennis itch, she insisted her cable TV package include the Tennis Channel (most people probably don’t know this channel exists). Even when she wasn’t watching it, she would often have her TV tuned to a tennis match, the sounds of the game serving as her “background music” while she went about her daily tasks at home.
Despite having two illiterate parents who never attended school, Rita was pushed by her parents to excel academically and was Salutatorian of her graduating class at Franklin High School. At age 15, she headed off to Southwestern Louisiana Institute (now University of Louisiana-Lafayette) and obtained an accounting degree there. (She had been looking forward to donning her Red Jacket one more time to attend her 70-year college class reunion in Lafayette this fall.) With degree in hand, she left for the big city of New Orleans, taking a job in the corporate office of Standard Oil of California (now Chevron). It was there she met Howard Dearing, an oil & gas lawyer originally from Oklahoma. A romance blossomed and they soon married in her hometown during a hail storm on Kentucky Derby Saturday in 1953. The marriage thrived through six decades; their 60th wedding anniversary celebrated just two days before Howard’s passing in 2013. Once married, Rita and Howard settled first in Metairie, moved to Lafayette, then to Mandeville/Covington, and then briefly to Danville, California before returning to beloved Mandeville/Covington where they resided for the past 45+ years. Rita’s infatuation with the game of tennis eventually infected her husband. That led them to join up with other tennis-playing couples in the Mandeville area back in the early seventies. Those friendships literally lasted a lifetime and became very dear to the Dearings; the tennis get-togethers evolving into shared meals, birthday celebrations, weddings, various group outings and, eventually, vacations abroad. Among Rita’s many talents was her scrumptious homestyle cooking. She made many exquisite Cajun meals she learned growing up and also took some of her husband’s midwestern family recipes and duplicated them to perfection. Even in her declining health, her home remained the hub for multi-generational family gatherings, strengthening familial bonds. She took great care in ensuring her freezer was always well-stocked with her homemade foods, whether it be for planned family gatherings or impromptu drop-ins. As her tennis-playing days came to an end, she became increasingly active in various card-playing, investment and gardening groups which resulted in a social calendar her children envied. She struggled with the recent COVID-19 restrictions on social gatherings and just this week spoke of how happy she was to have been able to once again host her card-playing friends last week (for what turned out to be one final time). She was a parishioner of Mary Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Mandeville since its inception, serving as a greeter there for many years. She was a frequent volunteer at the Samaritan Center in Mandeville, a Christian ministry devoted to fulfilling Christ’s mandate (“feed my sheep”) by providing assistance to those in need.
Irrespective of her active social life, Rita was, to her last day, fully devoted to providing for the health and well-being of her children. She is survived by seven children: Ann Whitman (Gordon), Mark (Joan), Linda Goudeau (Marc), Brian (Sharon), Bruce, Kay and Rich (Claire); sixteen of her grandchildren: Phillip, Daniel, Stephanie, Paul, Casey, Catherine, Marie, Elizabeth, Marc, Julia, Emily, Max, David, Graham, Audrey and Lila (the two youngest being one-year-old twins!); and all her great-grandchildren: Adam, Scott, Mae, Nora, Marcus, Alex, Elise, Elliot, Maya, Ava, Bella, Sawyer, Spencer, Elle, Arceneaux, Ann Douglas and Wells.
She is preceded in death by her devoted husband, G. Howard Dearing; her parents, Leonore Provost and Laodice Paul Derise; her siblings, Eloise Wittenberg, Martha Beaton and Louis Derise; her daughter, Derise Marie Dearing; and her grandson, Jackson Goudeau.
Visitation for relatives and friends of the family will be from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm on Friday, June 26, 2020, at E.J Fielding Funeral Home, 2260 West 21st Avenue, Covington, Louisiana. Burial services will be private. The family will host a celebration of life later this year and will share the details at a later date. E.J. Fielding Funeral Home is entrusted with arrangements. Please sign the E.J. Fielding Funeral Home online Guest Book at www.ejfieldingfh.com.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks consideration be given to making a donation in Rita’s memory to the Samaritan Center, 402 Girod Street, Mandeville, LA 70448.