Rita Faye Hodgins | News, Sports, Jobs


MARQUETTE, MI – Rita Faye Hodgins Van Neste (LaFave), 83, wife, mother, friend, and community leader, bequeathed by the grace of her Lord on Tuesday, March 29, 2022, in the loving care of her family and Lake Care of the higher life and hospice. Rita embraced family, her community, history, art and nature. A true dichotomy, Rita was as well known for her chic sense of style as she was for paddling her birchbark canoe on calm, clear water in a remote location.

Rita was a proud graduate of Bishop Baraga High School and Northern Michigan University. She taught elementary education in Richmond, VA and at Silver Creek School in Marquette, MI alongside her mother, Violet. As a young woman, her creative instinct emerged. She began to express herself through metal sculpture, exhibiting at Art on the Rocks and immersing herself in the Marquette art community, for which she has given lifelong support. She loved beautiful things and found beauty in everything.

Recognizing her strong work ethic and creativity, Rita has been offered a myriad of professional opportunities throughout her career. Always rising to the occasion, Rita left an indelible mark on her beloved town of Marquette. She worked tirelessly to bring attention to UP and Marquette. Rita retired as Director of Economic Development and Tourism at Michigan State University Cooperative Extension. While at MSU, she traveled locally throughout Michigan and internationally to Ireland, Poland, and Azerbaijan, helping communities grow economically, culturally, and communally. There were few places she could travel without meeting a friend, and she wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. On one occasion, while bearing in a remote area of ​​the Keweenaw Peninsula, Rita and Glenn encountered another group who peeked under the edge of the canoe and said: “Rita, is that you?” »

Everyone was a friend and there was no generation gap for her. Rita’s family understood that every day they could bring people home, including a European speed skating team, a Japanese cyclist, members of the NMU hockey team and newcomers to town. She would find them pedaling along the highway in the pouring rain, sitting on a sidewalk with a map in hand, wandering Mattson Park or just passing by. Her love of people, her compassion and her innate curiosity for other humans drove her to tell them to come home with her, welcome them, nurture them and encourage them to become friends for life. Never forgetting a name, his last lesson to all in life is that people, where they come from and what they do are important. They certainly were for her.

Rita’s concern for the community meant more to her than the honors conferred on her, though they inevitably came. His many accomplishments and awards include: distinguished service as a member and leader of the board of directors of the Marquette County Chapter of the American Cancer Society, recipient of the Marquette Ambassadors Good Will Award, president of the Upper Peninsula Tourism and Recreation Association, Marquette Kiwanis Claude A. Bosworth Community Service Award Recipient Noon Kiwanis, Marquette Zonta Club President, Marquette Chamber of Commerce President, Marquette Almost Isle Lodge Fundraising Chair, Citation Recipient from the Michigan State MAEA President University Extension, State of Michigan Special Tribute on behalf of the people of Marquette County, Chair of World Winter Cities, Marquette City Centennial Co-Chair, Citizen of the Year of the Town of Marquette, recipient of the Community Arts of the Town of Marquette Activist Award, member of the Board of Directors of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Lak e Superior Theater Board Member, Volunteer for the Noquemanon Ski Marathon, Volunteer for RAMBA, President of the Catholic Diocese Parish Council, Volunteer for Meals on Wheels fundraising events AMCAB, Member/Volunteer for the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association, among others.

“Preach the Gospel at all times and, when necessary, use words.” – Saint Francis of Assisi. Leadership includes character, tasks and relationships. Rita was a leader. She embodied honesty, integrity, courage, good values ​​based on absolute truths, faith, a humble spirit, patience with others, discipline and self-control. She made things happen by accepting responsibility, work ethic, availability, willingness to invest time, tenacity, perseverance and execution. She lived the golden rule.

Rita is survived by her loving husband; Glenn Van Neste, Jr.; Jeffrey Hodgins, daughter; Amy Lerlie (Glen), stepson; Travis Van Neste, grandchildren; Breanna Hodgins-Volk (Chris), Robert Hodgins, Aaron Lerlie (Nikki), Caroline Van Neste, Case Van Neste, great-grandson; Logan Volk, great-granddaughter; Aria Lerlie, sister; Mary Blemberg (Jim), many cousins, nieces, nephews and countless friends.

She was predeceased by her father; Clement LaFave, mother; Violet LaFave, brother; Richard LaFave, sister; Cécile Youngren and her brother; Barry LaFave.

Fassbender Swanson Hansen Funeral and Cremation Services is helping Rita’s family make arrangements. Visitation will be held at Fassbender Swanson Hansen Funeral Home on Friday, April 1, 2022 from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. A private mass will be held at Saint-Pierre Cathedral. The family requests that the memorabilia be taken to St. Peter’s Cathedral or Lake Superior Life Care and Hospice or Lake Superior Theater.

Online condolences can be expressed at www.fassbenderswansonhansen.com.


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