January 9, 1919 ~ January 14, 2008
Rita M. Ouellet
Rita was born in Gentilly, Minnesota on April 9, 1919. She was the first daughter of Eva and Laurent (Laurance) Caillier. She had eight brothers and sisters: Willard, Aloys (Louis), Audrey, Andre (Andy), Ursula, Everall (Buster), Dolores (Dore) and Madonna. She was raised on the farm and went to school in Red Lake Falls. As the oldest daughter, she was like a second mother to her younger siblings.
She grew up during the Great Depression. This was a very difficult time for farming families. After working hard night and day to raise their crops, they received little in return for their labors. In 1942 her entire family decided to make a major move west. They sold the farm and relocated to Los Angeles, California. They settled in an area where there were many French-speaking families. At this time Rita began working at Goodyear Rubber Company with her cousin Thelma Parenteau. Later she became a World War II “Rosie the Welder”. She took a government training course in welding, and then went to work for Western Pipe and Steel, where she welded ice breakers. With the war in full progress, Rita and her cousin Thelma joined the USO and did their good deeds to help the troops enjoy a little sunshine before they headed overseas. After the war, she welded two-wheel trailers for her brother Andy.
Rita met Joseph Albert Ouellet after the war. Their families lived across the street from each other and their fathers spoke together in French. On April 16, 1948 they were married at Ascension Catholic Church in Los Angeles. They honeymooned in San Francisco. They had four children: Andre born in 1949, Renee 11 months later in 1950, Monique in 1957 and Jacqueline in 1960.
During these years Rita and Al built and managed rental properties where they also lived. Rita raised her family, maintained and managed the apartments and interacted with many “interesting” tenants. In 1966 they sold the rental property and bought their home in Gardena, where she would live the remainder of her life. This was the first time she would live a house of her own and she loved her home. She enjoyed entertaining and cooking for her family. Christmas every year was a beehive of activity. She enjoyed cooking, candy making, and shopping for the perfect present.
Rita loved her grandchildren: Renee, Derek, Christopher, Kevin and Jessica and her door was always open to them.
In her 50’s, Rita started to experience the symptoms of the muscular dystrophy. Her strong-willed nature allowed her to stay active as long a possible. When she was no longer able to walk on her own, she needed to rely more and more on her daughter Jacqueline, and son, Andre. She was happy that with their help she was able to continue living at home. After the holidays this year, Rita caught a cold and had trouble getting over it. Her breathing became labored and she had to be admitted to the hospital. She died at 1:55 pm on Monday, January 14th, 2008.
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