Rita June Wingate, age 84, passed away peacefully on November 8, 2020 from natural causes. Born on the 11th of July 1936 in Miller County, Georgia to Clifford Boykin Hayes and Annie Rebecca Chester Hayes. Raised in the Bethany community, Rita picked cotton out of necessity and fished for the joy of it. She craved fresh vegetables like Georgia tomatoes and fresh creamed corn. In ‘53 Rita graduated from Albany High and married Frank; they recently celebrated 67 years together.
Rita lived life on her terms. She loved and cherished time with her family. She also needed time to think and rest without being disturbed. An intelligent, talented woman with a droll sense of humor, she didn’t like being ignored, and often went out of her way to avoid being the center of attention. Rita was a voracious reader who faithfully read her Bible. Meticulous and well organized, she surprised her boys each Christmas with toys from Santa arranged like the best department store window displays ever. She could sit forever watching a red and white fishing bobber in the water to signal a fish on the line, yet she preferred checkers over chess because she believe the later to be too slow and complicated. And Rita once nursed an orphaned Blue Jay chick she named Junior back to health, only to see it die mysteriously prior release; Junior’s death broke her heart.
Like most mothers, Rita was excited about one day becoming a grandmother. When asked how she would prefer to be addressed by her grandchildren, she stated they could refer to her by any name they liked, “...but no one better ever call me Big Mama!”
Rita loved traveling to places like Africa (to see her favorite animal, the African elephant), to Australia, New Mexico (she loved watching hot air balloons), and to the Pennsylvania Amish country. Other interests included bird watching, ping pong, collecting silk lace folding hand fans, depression glass, and Daylilies. Her favorite song was Henri Mancini’s “Baby Elephant Walk”.
Rita is survived by her husband Frank, her four sons and their wives Ricky and Andrea, Mark and Loretta, Bryan and Cindy, and Bruce, plus 14 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. She is predeceased by her parents, and siblings, Joanne Rodgers and Chris Hayes. Survivors include brother Henry Hayes, sister Gail Oakes, and numerous nieces and nephews.
Memorial services will be conducted Wednesday, November 11, 2020 at 10:30 a.m. at Mathews Funeral Home. Rev. Tommy Lowery will officiate. Social distancing and masks will be respected.
The family will receive friends following the services at Mathews Funeral Home.
In lieu of flowers those desiring may make memorials in memory of Rita June Wingate to St. Jude, 262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, TN, 38105 or The Anchorage Inc., P. O. Box 71774, Albany, GA, 31708.