With profound sadness, we announce the passing of Rita K. Lay, on July 26, 2021. She was a devoted wife, a loving mother, grandmother, and great grandmother, and a loyal friend to all those whose lives she touched. After a long fight with Alzheimer’s, she died peacefully with her family surrounding her in love. She was 73.

Rita was born Aug. 3, 1947, to Arland and Florence Herried, in Viroqua, Wis. She was an only child and grew up on the family farm; so she was a tough farm girl. Rita graduated from Viroqua High School in 1965, and then headed to Madison to attend business school, where she graduated the following year.

In 1969, Rita and her best friend Mary decided to leave their future to fate when they closed their eyes and pointed to a random location on the map, which sent them to Denver, Colo. This proved to be of great significance, as she met Freddie there in 1970. Rita discovered from a mutual friend that Freddie was a few years younger than her, so Rita told him that she was only 20 years old when they first met (she was 23). Freddie was already aware of her age though, so he thought he’d try to beat her at her own game and tell her that he was only 17 (even though he was 19). This was the beginning of a wonderful life, full of humor, that Rita and Freddie built together!

Rita and Freddie were married Nov. 20, 1971, in Viroqua. Freddie was in the Air Force at the time, so they moved to St. Petersburg, Fla., where their first child, Shannon, was born, on Oct. 18, 1972. They moved to Viroqua in 1973, after Freddie was discharged, and on June 23, 1976, their second child, Kimberly, was born. In 1982 the family moved to St. Croix Falls. They found themselves living in such a wonderful neighborhood on Moody Road and made fast lifelong friends with all of the neighbors there.

Rita spent a lot of her time supporting her girls at sporting events, while they were still in school. Family was everything to her, and she and Freddie could be found cheering on the sidelines on nearly every single occasion. There wasn’t anything that could take them away from supporting their family! When Rita wasn’t on the sidelines, you could probably find her on the golf course. She was part of a wonderful group of ladies that golfed in league, and she and Freddie golfed together on couples league, and on most Sundays together. Rita also loved to sing! She was a part of many choirs throughout her lifetime, and you could always find her singing in the car, even if she didn’t know all of the words. Mostly, we remember Rita humming or singing while she was walking around the house, always while snapping her fingers. She had such a joyful soul!

Rita held many positions over the years, but the one that she was the most proud of, was becoming a Certified Medical Assistant (CMA). She went back to school at the age of 53 to attend Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College (WITC) and graduated with her CMA Certification in 2001.

In Rita’s later years, she mostly enjoyed sitting on the patio with Freddie and watching deer while having a bonfire, playing cards, tending to her flowers, or watching the birds. One time, Rita tried to save a hummingbird that had crashed into the patio window, by giving it CPR! (Her family loved to recount that story and tease her about it a bit!) She and Freddie spent a lot of time on their motorcycle too. Rita absolutely loved getting on the bike with him! If they weren’t on their bike, they were probably following their grandchildren to their sporting events, carrying on the tradition of making it to most of their events, just as they had done with their own children, many years before.

To know Rita, was to love her. She had the most beautiful smile, and such an infectious laugh! You’d often be the recipient of a touch on your arm, if you were sharing a conversation or a laugh together. It wasn’t too often either, that you’d walk away from her without getting a hug! She loved to make people feel special, important, and loved.

In the words of Mother Teresa, “Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.” We are confident that Rita lived this out, every single day of her life. If we could all be more like Rita, this world would be a better place. Do something kind for someone today, in honor of Rita.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Arland and Florence Herried.

Rita is survived by her husband Freddie Lay, her daughters Shannon (Jon) Jacobson, and Kim (Robert) Olson. Her grandchildren McKenzie Fortier, Jacob Peper, Emily Olson, Maggie Olson, and Mattea Jacobson, and her great grandson Archer O’Halla.

A celebration of life will be held Aug. 7 at 11 a.m., at the Grandstrand Funeral Home in Osceola with a visitation starting at 9:30 am. Luncheon to follow at the Dalles house in St. Croix Falls.

Condolences may be expressed online at www.grandstrandfh.com.

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