‘I’m so sad. I hate to leave Brookhaven’ — Influential citizen Rich moves away from beloved city

Published 12:00 pm Monday, March 28, 2022

Rita Rich has had a hand in many things in Lincoln County, from local schools to local businesses. 

However, the coming of April means a time of transition for Rich, who moved Monday to an assisted living facility in Shreveport.

Rich, 82, was born in Red River Parish, Louisiana, and taught in Shreveport for a few years. Eventually, her family moved to Brookhaven and Rich decided to get involved with the community.

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Dear friend Cathy Pigott remembers when Rich helped spearhead the establishment of the Lincoln County Historical Museum located on the corner of South Church Street and West Chickasaw in the former Jewish synagogue. “The Jewish congregation there had dwindled, so Rita was one of those who spoke to them about donating the building,” Pigott said. “And it turned out so nice.”

Rich was part of expanding the Tour of Homes event in Brookhaven as well as establishing the first after-school child care program for working mothers. “I started it at Brookhaven Elementary School and then moved it to Mamie Martin [school],” she said. “I was really proud of that program because it helped so many working women.”

Rich worked for Brookhaven Public School District for years as a teacher and administrator, retiring from Lipsey as principal. She was recognized by the national secretary of education through a visit to the White House, where she said she thoroughly enjoyed seeing the Dish Room, which held all the collections of former First Ladies.

Rich was involved in Chamber of Commerce events for years, being named Citizen of the Year in 2009. Her favorite event to organize was the annual Christmas parade, where once she was named grand marshal. 

“The time we got the Clydesdale horses here – they were housed at the Lincoln County Livestock Arena complex, and isn’t it lucky we have such a place that could house them?” she said of her favorite parade memory. “People would go out there and take pictures with the horses. Everyone just so enjoyed that.”

Rich seemed determined yet a bit melancholy about her impending move. When asked what she’ll miss the most, she doesn’t hesitate in answering. “I’ll miss the people [in Brookhaven]. It’s the people,” she said emphatically. “I have lots and lots of friends here.

“I hate leaving Brookhaven,” Rich said wistfully from her comfy chair, a soft blanket covering her legs. “I’m just so sad. My boys, who are in their 50s now, were born and reared here.” Rich has two children. One son, Stuart, lives out from Sumrall and has two children, Hunter and Emma. Her other son, Clay, lives in Bossier City and is the father of three: Grace, Jackson and Kate.

Pigott became emotional thinking of her friend leaving. “I had been gone, oh, 25 years before I myself came back to Brookhaven,” she said, her voice cracking. “And in the darkest times of my life, Rita was there for me.”

A goodbye party Sunday helped Rich highlight the good times before she left for good. Though life goes on, it was hard for her when Monday came and she had to leave Brookhaven behind. 

After all, she left so much of herself there already.