Rita Evelyn (nee Senior) Ackley, born in Meerut, India in 1927 while her father served in the British Army, a father she lost when she was only four years of age. When he passed, she returned to England with her mother, her brother Bill and her beloved sister Enid where she grew up during World War Two, and was sent for safety to a boarding school in Rickmansworth, the Royal Masonic School. Rita wanted nothing more than to drive ambulances or somehow contribute to the war effort as soon as she was of age but the war ended before she got her chance - so she sought new adventures. As a young woman in post war Europe she found her way into working for the International Refugee Organization for those displaced by the war, first in London and then in Hanover, Germany. There she met Otto Steiner, a camp survivor who lost his entire family in Auschwitz. They fell in love, married and came to Manhattan. Rita worked in an advertising agency, a job she dearly loved while her husband worked for an airline, but they were not to have long together as Otto lost his life to Hodgkin’s disease. A young widow in NYC but surrounded by good friends, she ultimately made the choice to return to her family in England. One night, a friend invited her to an embassy party trying to lift her spirits, where this English Rose caught the eye of a handsome American diplomat - her future husband, Roger Ackley. A new chapter began … Rita and Roger married in 1958 and had their first child, John in Salzburg Austria, her daughter Evelyn was born in Atlanta and finally Paul in Evanston, Illinois. The family of five finally landed in the mid-70’s in Glen Ridge, New Jersey.
Rita resided in New Jersey the rest of her life. After her husband Roger passed from Alzheimer’s in 1993 in Upper Montclair, she moved to Clifton to live blocks away from her daughter Evelyn. Here she was happy, largely independent and enjoyed great health until just the last few years. She was called “Mommy” by all her friends at the Clifton Animal Shelter, her extended shelter family who loved her.
Rita burned brightly well into her 80s, only shifting down into a lower gear after the age of 90.
Rita always said she was happy. Rita always said she had a great life. Rita always knew she was lucky to have what she did, and she reconciled disappointments with grace. We should all be so lucky as Rita Evelyn Ackley to lead such a colorful life, remembered and celebrated by so many for so long.
Rita leaves behind: her beloved Maltese Pixie, John Ackley (son) and his wife Sherry, Evelyn Ackley Raps (daughter) and her husband Walter Raps, Paul Ackley (son) and wife Kristen. Rita is also survived by seven grandchildren and by extended family in England including Susan Johns (niece) and her husband, Danny and Malcolm Messiter (nephew) and his wife Rachael.
Rita charmed everyone who met her - she will be dearly missed.
Friends of the Shelter, Inc.
P.O. Box 4923, Clifton NJ 07015-4923
Alzheimer's Association Greater New Jersey
23 Vreeland Road, Suite 105, Florham Park NJ 07932