Rita Gertrude Kenaley was born Aug. 14, 1917, at Ticonic, the fourth daughter of Joseph Leo and Josephine (Sullivan) Kenaley. When Rita was a child, she moved with her family to Oto, Mapleton and Le Mars, attending country schools. She graduated near the top of her class from Union Consolidated School in rural Plymouth County in 1935.
She lived at home for several years to help with farm work and her five younger siblings. She married Rome Starzl on July 28, 1948, at St. James Catholic Church in Le Mars.
Rita joined Rome in operating his family business, the Le Mars Globe Post newspaper where she worked in nearly every capacity from news to circulation to front office duties for the next seven years.
Rita and Rome became parents of a daughter, Kathleen, in 1955, but Rita continued to work at the newspaper as well as manage their home.
When Rome suffered a debilitating stroke in 1962 and was bedridden, Rita continued to run the newspaper with the help of other staff members. She communicated regularly from the office with Rome using a two-way intercom system; Rita would ask him business questions that could be answered with a yes or no, and he would respond by clicking on the intercom, once for yes and twice for no. Since Rome could no longer speak Rita designed an alphabet board which he used to point out letters to spell words and communicate.
The Globe Post was destroyed in an overnight electrical fire on St. Patrick's Day 1964. The business was sold several months later to the Le Mars Daily Sentinel and several Globe Post employees, including Rita, went to work for the Sentinel.
Rita began her work in the Sentinel newsroom in late 1964 and worked in the office as the society editor and doing general news for more than 30 years. After retiring she installed a computer at home and continued to do social news there and take it to the Sentinel office on computer disks.
She enjoyed being a part of the newspaper business from its days of molten lead and linotypes well into the computer age of cold print technology.
During the last half of her career Rita became the unofficial historian of the newspaper office and could answer nearly any questions about the Le Mars families she had known through several generations.
She was a member of St James Catholic Church in Le Mars for more than 80 years.
Survivors include daughter, Kathy, and her husband, Jeff, of Le Mars; her granddaughter and the light of her life, Emily, and her husband, Jon Goodin, of Edmond, Okla.; three sisters, Alice Murray of Iowa City, Bette Kennaley of Sioux City, and Bonnie Ruden of Le Mars; two brothers, Don Kenaley and his wife, Helen, of Iowa City, and Bob Kenaley and his wife, Ruth, of Le Mars; a stepdaughter, Margaret Kuyper, of Boise, Idaho, and a stepson, Dr. Thomas Starzl ,of Pittsburgh, Pa.; and numerous nieces and nephews.
She was preceded in death by her parents; her husband, Rome, in 1976; sisters Louise Kidd and Rose Krogh; a brother Gerald; a stepdaughter, Nancy Seaton, and a stepson, John Starzl.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at St. James Catholic Church in Le Mars, with the Rev. Matt Hewitt presiding. Burial will be in Calvary Cemetery in Le Mars. Visitations will be anytime after 3 p.m. on Friday at the Carlsen-Feuerstein Funeral Home in Le Mars, where there will be a parish rosary at 4 p.m. and a vigil wake service at 7 p.m. Visitation will resume on Saturday morning at the church for one hour prior to the Mass.
Pallbearers will be Jon Goodin, David Ruden, Pat Kenaley, Bridget Schumacher, Tom Murray and Barb Utesch. Honorary pallbearers will be Alice Murray, Bette Kennaley, Bonnie Ruden, Bob Kenaley, Don Kenaley and Rita's nieces and nephews.
Expressions of sympathy may be extended to the family through www.carlsenfuneralhome.com.