“I feel as if I had opened a book and found roses of yesterday sweet and fragrant, between its leaves.” – Lucy Maud Montgomery
In all transparency, it is a daunting task to write about a writer. Learning about Rita Micklish’s life and upbringing, however, feels like finding the roses of yesterday—a treasure of sweet memories, world travel and many touched lives.
Rita was born on February 7th, 1931 in San Diego, CA. From a young age, she loved recording her thoughts and observations about the world around her. She was raised as the oldest of four siblings—two brothers, Bill and John, and a sister, Patricia. According to Rita, her role growing up was to try everything out to pave the way for her siblings. Her mother helped set the family’s parameters of morality and instilled values into the children. Her father was the provider, and even built the family a house to live in while they lived temporarily in a large tent.
Rita’s childhood was joyful, overall. She attended Our Lady of Sacred Heart Parish and Cathedral High School. She married her husband, Donald, soon after high school and they started a family together. Rita’s connection to writing became solidified when her father’s best friend needed someone to help out at the Union Tribune. Rita took on the job and was exposed to every aspect of the printing process. It was there, she said, that she developed her formal format for writing and her process of gathering information, doing research, and writing accurate pieces.
Rita’s big jump start came with the completion of her book, Sugar Bee. Sugar Bee is about a young, African American girl that longs to see a world different from the neighborhood she describes as old and ugly. She has the opportunity to visit a Caucasian family in the country and learns that the appearance of her surroundings is not most important in life. After Sugar Bee took off as a success, Rita was invited to present her book in different locations. She started teaching in the County schools and taught independent writing in her home. She even started a club called the Liberty Falls Club, where fans of the Liberty Falls Houses could get together, admire the collectibles, and tell stories about them.
Over the years, writing, Rita received correspondence from readers all over the world. She kept in touch with some of them, giving writing advice, becoming a confidant for many people and visiting some of them all over the country and beyond. She visited New England, Russia, England, France, Spain and more. Rita even corresponded with other writers, such as Maya Angelou. She explained that the key was allowing herself to be mentored by writers that came before her and using what she learned to serve as a guide for others as well. Through the years, Rita learned to appreciate the diversity of others. She asserts that it is very important to allow people to be who they are at their core and not expect something different, both in everyday life and in writing.
When not writing or teaching, Rita’s time was spent with people. She made friends with a couple that owned a travel agency. They needed somebody to help assist with group tours, so Rita took on the task of accompanying senior citizens on trips around the world, taking about thirty people at a time and serving as both an agent and tour guide. She also traveled on cruises with her husband, Donald and saw even more sites on these trips.
With time, Rita and Donald decided to slow down and enjoy being home. They started planting a garden of roses at their home overlooking San Miguel. In all, they planted over three-hundred rose bushes. Rita could name every one of them. Through a lifetime of writing for hours upon end, with her daughter on her lap, to traveling the world and stopping to smell the roses, Rita has accumulated many rich, beloved memories. What a special, one of a kind woman. In sitting for almost an hour together getting immersed in her beautiful life story, all I can say is that I felt fortunate.
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