Watchurst, Rita Winifred

Rita Watchurst passed away suddenly and unexpectedly at Grey Bruce Health Services in Meaford on Saturday, May 29, 2021 with her loving husband by her side. Born in Hull, England on January 14, 1938, she was one of 8 children born to Mary Ann Booth and Charles Carter.

In 1959 at the age of 22 years Rita visited her sister Dolly at an Air Force Base in Germany where she met the love of her life, a very handsome R.C.A.F. Pilot John Watchurst, who was in the kitchen at the home of his friend and fellow R.C.A.F. Pilot Jimmy Dunlop, who just so happened to be married to Rita’s sister Dolly. John was chipping away at an ice block to make drinks when this beautiful woman named Rita walked in and completely captivated his heart.

John and Rita had a whirlwind romance, marrying just six months later. They started their family in Germany, welcoming their first child, a daughter named Toni Anne. A few years later John was redeployed to the Air Force Base in Chatham, New Brunswick where the family grew when their only son Jonathan was born. After a few years, John left military life behind and returned to England now accompanied by his wife Rita and their two young children, Toni and Jonathan.

John was subsequently hired as a Pilot for Air Canada which resulted in the young family once again packing up and heading back across the pond to set up stakes in Brampton, Ontario. Rita was already pregnant carrying their third child only to wake up in her room on the maternity ward to be informed by the woman sharing the room that she had delivered twins which was quite a shock as these were the days before Ultrasounds. John said he accepted that the hospital charged double for the safe delivery of daughters Kelly and Tracey but he refused to pay the Doctor twice his normal fee as he had only seen Rita one time prior to her giving birth so he felt he was being overcharged.

In the spring of 1967 John, Rita and their four children moved to a farm in Alton, Ontario where they acquired two horses, multiple ducks, two pigs and a Jersey Cow named Jenny. The family experienced countless adventures on the farm over the years such as the runaway pig who tried to escape to freedom only to end up surrounded by a gang of cows at the neighbouring farm. The Pig survived the welcoming committee however he required the support of a makeshift prosthetic leg for the remainder of his life. In spite of Rita’s many skills and talents she found herself frustrated in her attempts to milk Jenny the Jersey Cow. Being a loving husband and provider John scoured the area to find a portable milking device to attach to the Jersey Cow which enabled his family to have fresh milk every morning.

Rita started working as Librarian at the Alton Public Library from 1973 to 1988.  She became the hub of the community both in Alton and then in Meaford after John & Rita sold the farm and moved to live by the waters edge on Georgian Bay in 1988. Rita worked as an active volunteer in the school, with developmentally delayed children, as a Sunday School Teacher, Choir member, Meals on Wheels volunteer, hospital volunteer and Outreach program for members of the community struggling to afford and/or access healthy nutrition.

Throughout their lives Rita instilled her love of reading in all of her children. She was always quick to share the names of favourite authors and the latest book she had just read.

Rita was also a gifted seamstress, upholstered and Quilter who created absolutely beautiful works of art that she gifted to all members of the family. She had in fact just recently completed work on yet another gorgeous quilt and was awaiting the opportunity to give it to the recipient once Covid gatherings and travel restrictions had been lifted. That quilt was for her granddaughter Tasha-Lee who will cherish it forever.

Rita and John enjoyed travelling and shared many exciting holidays. Together they travelled to Barbados, Italy, France, Portugal, Germany, Poland, Prague, Russia, Scandinavia, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Egypt, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong,Cambodia and Vietnam. They had wonderful adventures pulling their very long trailer through the United States, spending many winters in Florida and adventures down into Mexico. Rita and John were proud Canadians who visited their bi-coastal twins driving and/or flying many times to Victoria, British Columbia on the West coast of Canada all the way over to Causapscal, Quebec on the East coast.

Rita was the embodiment of graciousness and love. She made everyone feel welcome in her home. Rita loved flowers and nurtured beautiful flower gardens that were included in community tours for others to enjoy. She was a talented cook who worked side by side with John in the kitchen to feed the ever growing family and the multitude of friends who were fortunate to visit the Watchurst Inn.

She was the ultimate cheerleader for each of her four children, their partners and all of her 9 grandchildren. She was always interested in each person’s lives, their unique interests, their challenges and their hopes and dreams.  Rita was always engaged, always encouraging and always accepting unconditionally.  She was a beautiful force of nature the likes of which we have never seen before and will never experience again.

Rita is survived by her best friend and husband of more than 61 years, their children Toni (Canon Rev. Kevin Bothwell), Jonathan (Tami), Kelly (Guylain Berube) and Tracey Watchurst (Dr. Ian Thompson). She will be missed greatly by her grandchildren, Emma Bothwell (Brad Woodworth), Alexander (Natalee), Leslie (Gary Scullion), Tasha-Lee, Louis, Josie, Simon, Ben and Sophie.  Rita is also survived by her sister Betty Everitt, brother Dick Carter and sister-in-law Mary Milsom and their families all of England.

As your expression of sympathy and in lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations be made in Rita’s memory to the Friends of the Meaford Library (cheques only please) or the Meaford Hospital Foundation would be appreciated and may be made through the Ferguson Funeral Home, 48 Boucher St. E., Meaford, ON   N4L 1B9 to whom arrangements have been entrusted.


Private family arrangements at this time.

Donations: Friends of the Meaford Library (cheques only please) or the Meaford Hospital Foundation.
Make a donation in memory of Rita Winifred Watchurst

Memories & Messages of condolence

  1. Gail Rows
    Wednesday, June 2, 2021

    John and Family:
    So sorry to learn of Rita’s passing. She was a lovely lady and will be sorrowfully missed

  2. Elizabeth Park
    Wednesday, June 2, 2021

    John & Family,
    We were shocked and so saddened to hear the news of Rita’s death. Certainly she was a most delightful neighbour and friend, always as eager to hear our news as to share her own. Generous, warm-hearted, kind, empathetic- these are just a few of the many traits that drew people to Rita. It is hard to imagine the neighbourhood without her loving presence. Our sincere condolences to you, John, and to all the family. Know that Rita will live on in our hearts and minds as well as your own. Hold each other and your memories close.
    Elizabeth & Wayne Park

  3. Viv and Simon Baker
    Wednesday, June 2, 2021

    Ritas passing is so devastating to all who knew her. Everything good thing said about Rita is true. She was a beautiful human being with a Christian heart. We will truly miss her.

  4. Doreen Isaac
    Wednesday, June 2, 2021

    I met Rita through the church when we retired here some years ago. She was a beautiful soul who shared my interest in travel, and liked to discuss the places we had both travelled to. I will miss her kindness and smile. Condolences to John and the family on her sudden and heartbreaking passing.

  5. Jim and Deb Chapman
    Thursday, June 3, 2021

    Our sincere sympathy to you and your family.
    We are very sorry to hear about Rita.
    What a beautiful tribute to you have written about your lovely wife, Mom and Grandmother. A life well loved and lived.
    Jim and Deb

  6. Carlee Henderson
    Friday, June 11, 2021

    Wishing the Watchurst family my deepest condolences during this sad time. I met Rita when I was a young girl at the Alton Library. She was such a kind and caring lady who welcomed me with a warm smile every time I went in to research projects for school. It’s been over 30 years since I’ve seen Rita, I have never forgotten her warmth.
    Wishing you peace and love in your memories.
    Carlee Henderson (Lucas)

  7. Jackie Adamo (Martin)
    Friday, June 11, 2021

    Sending our deepest condolences to the family and keeping all of you in our prayers.

  8. Ann Robinson
    Tuesday, June 15, 2021

    I was saddened to hear about Rita’s passing. As I read her obituary, fond memories of her flooded back. We first met in 1982 when I began teaching in Alton. I liked her immediately and respected the way she carried herself and how she was such an integral part of the village. There were only two of us on staff and our school library was fairly meagre. We had biweekly, half day visits from a wonderful teacher-librarian from Belfountain school but Rita capably filled the gaps. She was a wonderful resource, gathering any material that would aid in our classroom studies. We so looked forward to our trips downtown to see her, exchange books, and watch a movie shown on the old 8mm reel to reel. She always greeted us so warmly and the children loved her calm and caring demeanour.
    I was always so taken with her almost regal carriage, yet she was so approachable. I have to say she was very helpful in making my transition to Alton a very pleasant one. I know she supported many children throughout the years.
    Please accept my sincere sympathy in the passing of a truly remarkable woman.
    Ann Robinson


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