Your Neighbor: Meet Rita Carr

Published 12:05 am Thursday, July 11, 2024

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By Mandy Haggerson

For the Clemmons Courier

LEWISVILLE — From a young age, Rita Carr realized the importance of relationships and the meaningful bonds created by humans and animals.

Starting at six years old, she developed a passion for horses.

“By the time I turned 9, my parents realized how serious my commitment was and gifted me a pony,” Carr said.

When she went to Christopher New Port University, she continued her competitions and caring for the horses.

“It was a small teaching school,” Carr said. “We started up an equestrian team which did well. A huge part of me wanted to be a professional rider, but I realized that it was hard financially to make that a career.”

After Carr graduated from college, she was married and began living in many different places.

“Due to my then-husband’s career, we moved all over,” Carr said. “Several of those places like Lexington, Kentucky, were fun for me because of their connection with horses.”

After seven years of travel, Carr had three children. Embracing motherhood, Carr decided after her youngest went to kindergarten to work part-time at the tack shop in Clemmons.

“I had been a huge patron of the store myself,” Carr said. “My role evolved when the owner decided to close it or possibly sell it. I decided the timing was right for me to take it on. I loved being the information station for people who shared the same passion as I did. I also got to know some really extraordinary people in our community.”

Like many small businesses, Carr came to discover that the internet became a competitor. “Although people appreciated my knowledge and understanding of the products, they were able to make purchases online for less than what I could buy at wholesale,” explains Carr.

At that point in time, Carr had gotten married to her second husband, David.

“He had encouraged me to walk away to spend more time with each other,” Carr said. “David had lost his wife tragically to ovarian cancer at 54, and she had been a dear friend of mine as well. We both knew and appreciated how fleeting life was.”

Rita and David found ways to continue connecting with her passion for horses and also with her stepdaughter who was at the College of Charleston. “We became the booster parents for my stepdaughter’s school, and it was a wonderful time to be able to share that with her,” says Carr.

Rita and David were met with tragedy again when Rita’s son, Ian, was tragically killed in a car accident.

“When something like that happens, you can curl up into a ball, or you can keep putting one foot in front of the other,” Carr said. “For the first three months, I thought I had died. I received an outpouring from caring people who sent wonderful books. My sister, Cathy, who has always been my rock, was a tremendous support too.”

After the first year, on Ian’s birthday, Carr revealed it was still tough to do anything but cry.

“After that birthday, I decided I would go to local bakeries and buy birthday cakes for other people,” Carr said. “I went to the cashier and asked if they had any cakes on his birthday, Jan. 23, and purchased them all. I did that at a couple of places. Ironically, later in the news, I saw that Cameron Kent with WXII 12 had done a story on a birthday cake angel. The recipients never knew who I was. I just wanted them to know it was my son’s birthday.”

In the process of grieving, Rita and David began building their home in Lewisville.

“David and I realized we enjoyed traveling, but also loved being at home,” Carr said. “We moved into our new home in Lake Lissara in 2019, and immediately I got a big welcome. I hopped on a couple of committees. I also participated in a weekly exercise class. They became like my second family,” reveals Carr.

While excited to start this next chapter in her and David’s life, they were dealt crushing news that he had been diagnosed with brain cancer.

“The prognosis was not good,” Carr said. “I was so angry. He had just turned 70. The oncologist had recommended, despite the number of tumors in his brain, that he fight it with chemotherapy. Always the optimist and always the fighter, David agreed to do just that. His three children, who are wonderful people, rallied around him. After just 10 weeks, the aggressive cancer which caused David to lose his functions quickly was just too much, and he passed away.”

Like others who have experienced immense grief, Carr began to try and process it.

“I was angry at the doctors that had told him to spend that time fighting at such an aggressive stage of cancer,” Carr said. “It made David feel horrible, and the likelihood of success had been slim to none. But because David was such a fighter, he was willing to give it a chance. My priest had told me to write down my feelings in a letter to the doctors and then burn it. I found that to be incredibly healing.”

What also aided tremendously in her healing was the sense of community she and her family felt during that time.

“David was very close to his high school friends from the class of 1971 at Reynolds,” Carr said. “My neighbors had brought meals for six weeks straight and left them on my porch to make sure we were cared for. Then David’s classmates took up providing meals too. The sense of community from that group of neighbors and friends was indescribable. I was blown away by the notes, gift cards, and sentiments bestowed upon our family. It’s almost as if David knew when building our home to put me in a community that would help me with the healing process.

“If you haven’t yet, meet your neighbor. You never know when you will need them or they will need you.”