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Rita Nancy Bailey

Obituary for Rita Nancy Bailey

August 28, 1932 - September 14, 2017
West Chester, Pennsylvania | Age 85

Loving Mother, Grandmother, Great-Grandmother, and Sister


Rita N. Bailey (nee Rizzo), beloved wife and mother, passed away peacefully at home on September 14, 2017, surrounded by her loving family. Rita's chief pride in her life was her large, close-knit family and the immense joy they found in her presence; she will be deeply missed by all who knew her.

Rita was predeceased by her husband, Ivan Lloyd Bailey; she is survived by her children Ivan L. Bailey, Jr. (Betsy), Betty Tepper (Frank), John H Bailey (Linda), and James C. Bailey; her grandchildren Frank Tepper (Allison), Mary Bailey (Brendan King), Rita Harvey (Jason), Lloyd Bailey (Kelly), Lindsay Mill (Michael), John Bailey, Allison Bailey (Alex McDonnell), Lindsay Husbands, James Bailey, and Catherine Bailey; and her great-grandchildren Nora Grace Bailey, Landon Avery Harvey, and Lucas Michael Mill. Rita was predeceased by her father, Francis Rizzo, and her mother, Frances (nee Frederico); she is survived by her siblings Carmella Rizzo, Frank Rizzo (Josie), Louis Rizzo (Anne), Genevieve Rizzo, and Betty McGherin (Tom), and predeceased by her siblings and their spouses Tony Rizzo (Rita), Jimmy Rizzo (Kay), Andy Rizzo (Connie), Mary Borda, and Hilda Rizzo. Rita is also survived by dozens of nieces and nephews and their spouses and children, as well as a bevy of lifelong friends.

Rita grew up in the Italian Market neighborhood of South Philadelphia. A consummate storyteller, her recollections of life as a child in a large Italian-Catholic immigrant family in the city were a constant source of amusement to her audience. Her remembrances of mid-century Philadelphia were by turns funny, touching, and sad, the stories peopled with characters brought alive by her sense of humor and attention to detail. Listeners may well recall, for example, the saga of the roller skates and the stick; we may never know the full extent of the events that unfolded that fateful day.

By far, the most popular tale in her repertoire was the love story of Ivan and Rita. At only 18 and 16, respectively, the couple met and fell in love when Ivan was stationed in Philadelphia in the Navy. The young, beautiful Rita was at first bemused by the handsome sailor paying her attention, but he soon won her over with his genuine kindness and good heart. He was instantly taken in by the Rizzos as a son and brother, and after a short courtship, the two eloped to Elkton, Maryland, returning to celebrate with family soon after. The couple was married on January 14, 1950; the devoted pair was together for over 60 years.

Ivan and Rita's adventures took them to Florida, Cuba, Rhode Island, Michigan, Virginia, Spain, and eventually back to the Philadelphia area, not to mention across the country and back again over several epic road trips. They settled in Aldan, Pennsylvania and then moved "out to the country" when they bought a home in West Chester, but Rita and Ivan's biggest "adventures" were not of the travel sort; after exactly 9 years, 1 month, and 1 day, as Rita was fond of saying, they welcomed their first child, Ivan Lloyd, into the world, and the adventure really began. Lloyd was soon followed by Betty, Johnny, and Jimmy. Anyone who knew Rita knew that her children were the light of her life. As they grew into successful adults, they took mates and had children, adding to the great pleasures of Rita's existence. She was an exemplary grandmother, loving her ten grandchildren and three great-granchildren unconditionally and immeasurably. Doling out pearls of wisdom alongside homemade baked goods was Me-mom's specialty. She taught her boys to take care of their girls, and her girls to expect the best from their boys. She taught them to bake pies, see the good in people, and stand their ground for their convictions.

Rita was a keenly intelligent and organized person, keeping herself (and others) busy at all times. She rarely sat down from sunup to bedtime and the fruits of her labor were apparent in her immaculate house, stocked refrigerator, and successful business ventures. In addition to the various jobs she held from the time she was a teenager, she was a capable businesswoman, running Busy Bee Ceramics with her siblings. It is unclear who, exactly, worked in the shop, since everyone who walked through the door was pressed into service. Grandchildren in particular were in charge of stocking the coke machine and organizing the paints, but siblings and spouses were invariably sent out to pick up hoagies, carry buckets, unload supplies, fix light bulbs, and on and on until everyone felt like they were a stakeholder, someone important. Rita had the gift of making you feel like you were included, even as you were being conscripted into lifting a case of Pepsi or a 50-pound ceramic mold of a rooster.

Rita's flair for entertaining was a key aspect of her personality. She hosted huge parties with hundreds of guests and piles of food regularly; if you went hungry at Aunt Rita's, it was your own fault. Those of us with long memories may remember the Vigile, the New Year's parties at the Aunts', the Thanksgivings, Christmases, graduations, christenings, barbeques, and any of a million other excuses to get together and eat. The essential Rita asked if you wanted thirds before you had even asked for seconds, and milkshakes, grilled cheeses, and Tastykakes would appear as if by magic even when there wasn't a party.

Rita's faith was one of her most cherished values. A devout Roman Catholic, she attended church weekly and surrounded herself with icons to St. Francis, St. Jude, and the Blessed Mother. She could conjure lost items out of thin air with the Prayer to St. Anthony. She visited holy sites across the world and was excited that the Pope was visiting Philadelphia in her lifetime. Rita is no doubt in heaven now, making Ivan and the angels chocolate milkshakes while she gives God her opinions on everything under the sun.

Relatives and friends are invited to her visitation 6:00-8:00 p.m. Sunday, September 17 and 8:00-9:00 a.m. Monday, September 18, at The Donohue Funeral Home, 1627 West Chester Pike, West Chester, PA 19382, 610-431-9000.

The Funeral Mass will take place at 10:00 a.m. at St. Joseph Church, 460 Manor Ave, Downingtown, PA 19335; interment will be at St. Agnes Cemetery, West Chester.

Contributions may be made to Catholic Charities USA, P.O. Box 17066, Baltimore, MD 21297-1066. Rita's family is much comforted by the fact that she has been reunited with her love, Ivan, as well as her parents and siblings who were called home before her.

To our Mom, Grandmom, Memom, G.G., Sis, Aunt Rita: We know we will see you again. To which, of course, we know you will reply, "Thanks for the warning."

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Suggested Memorial Donations

  • Catholic Charities USA
    P.O. Box 17066
    Baltimore, MD 21297-1066

Message from the Family

Thank you for your support during this difficult time.
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Arrangements By

Donohue Funeral Homes, Inc.

1627 West Chester Pike
West Chester, PA 19382
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