July 27, 1935 - April 23, 2023
Rita Mae was born the youngest of 7 children in Wagner, South Dakota, to Hans and Hazel Zachariasen.
After moving to Missoula, she met Jack, the love of her life, on a double date with Don and Betty Peressini, the couple who became their lifelong friends. If you listen carefully, you can still hear Rita and Betty laughing!
Rita was the proud wife of Jack Baumgardner for over 67 years until his passing last July. You rarely saw one without the other. She worked by his side at Jack's Masonry, and he cleaned stalls and saddled horses by hers. They created a beautiful family with three kids, John (Shelly), Vicki Klimek (Dave), and Joe (Traci), and welcomed the spouses as their own. Rita gushed over her four grandchildren, Chelsea McMannis (Britton), Zach (Alli), Sara (Derek), and Alexi Baumgardner, as well as their spouses and soon-to-be spouses!
She absolutely adored her great-grandchildren and was lucky enough to have three, Camden, Baker, and Briggs McMannis!
Rita was an incredible hostess without effort. Her home was warm, inviting, and full of love! She always had snacks, candy, and especially a drink ready for every guest. Christmases at her house were spectacular, and she was lucky enough to have had nearly every single one with all the family present. It was an annual tradition to make sugar cookies with the grandkiddos on the very cookie sheets her mom used! If you were lucky enough to have been given a plate of them...you were lucky enough! Regardless of having the recipe, the cookies will never be duplicated, as there was a special ingredient that made hers better...Rita's love!
Second only to her family was Rita's other legacy, the Missoula Equestrian Park, to which she dedicated endless time and effort to help create. She had a vision for that land and wanted to make sure it was available for all to use long into the future. Rita had such an incredible group of friends that bonded over their love of horses! She and her dear friend Sandra were no strangers to an arena! Fittingly, she will be buried next to Jack at the Veterans Cemetery, where they can both watch over the beautiful equestrian park.
Rita's dementia took her from us long before her last breath, and as much as we miss her, we are so incredibly grateful that she and Jack are reunited once again. We know he was so happy to welcome her home, and we are certain they are dancing! Together, they had a life well lived. See them, remember them, and love them in a glass of boxed wine, a bottle of Jack Daniels, a blackjack table, a horse, a Corgi, a walk around the equestrian park, a dance floor, or anything beautiful.
Rita is survived by her family, her horse, Josie, and her Corgi, Emmit. Cheers!