In Memory Rita Ann Clewell
Obituary - Rita Ann Clewell
Having discovered and lived out her calling to serve others, Rita Ann Clewell passed from this life at home in Edmond, with family keeping vigil, on January 16, 2021. She was born February 9, 1928 in Enid, Oklahoma to Dallas Earl Wilson and Alta Lee Boyd Wilson.
She graduated from Enid High School, then was married to Clemon G. Clewell on June 16, 1946. They resided in Watonga, Oklahoma until moving to Edmond in 2013 as Clemon’s health declined. Early in their marriage she worked for Dr. S. M. Barrett as an assistant in his dental office. She was a wonderful, devoted wife and homemaker. When her youngest son started school she began working at Rice Hardware where her husband was the manager. She continued to work in the hardware store, keeping books, waiting on customers, cutting pipe, wrapping gifts and whatever else was needed. In 1979 she and Clemon purchased the business which was later renamed Clewell’s Family Hardware and Appliance.
She found time for many different family, church and community activities including being a Cub Scout Den Mother, Girl Scout leader, and First Aid instructor.
Rita was kind, gentle, generous, tireless, and multi-talented, but was especially known for her cooking. This was what she loved to do and something at which she excelled. Her family enjoyed home cooked meals every day, even after she began working in the hardware store. She made wedding cakes and pies for extra income, and this led to baking pies for the Hi-De-Ho restaurant and later the Noble House. She began baking homemade cookies for the hardware store, which attracted a regular group of locals for coffee breaks. In 1984 she was able to fulfill a lifelong dream of having her own restaurant, having convinced Clemon to allow a corner of the new hardware building to become Rita’s Country Kitchen. Homemade soups, sandwiches, cinnamon rolls and pies soon attracted diners from Watonga and beyond. Successful beyond her expectations, more employees had to be hired and additional tables added, taking over some of the appliance sales space. This unique restaurant in the corner of a hardware store attracted newspaper coverage in the Enid Morning News and Daily Oklahoman, and when the Oklahoman food editor sought out the best cinnamon rolls in Oklahoma, she wrote that the cinnamon rolls at Rita’s Country Kitchen were one of the two best she’d discovered. After six years Rita retired from the long, hard work of a highly successful restauranteur, but continued to bake pies and cinnamon rolls to order. Later she coordinated a mission project of First United Methodist Church, serving lunch each Friday to students and teachers from Watonga High School. She enjoyed planning the menu, directing a team of volunteers and providing delicious, home cooked meals to the students and teachers. For her 80th birthday she decided to bake many dozens of cinnamon rolls and offer them to everyone in the Watonga community in the former Rita’s Country Kitchen. On her 81st she baked a variety of pies and again offered complimentary slices to anyone who wanted to come help her celebrate her birthday. She created a cookbook of her favorite recipes for her family, and had special times to share her cooking wisdom and secrets with grandchildren and great grandchildren who are carrying on her tradition. When her arthritic hands and poor eyesight prevented her from cooking any longer, she found joy in teaching her senior caregivers to bake rolls and cookies, to their amazement and delight.
She loved to travel, enjoying family vacations to Red River, annual trips to Branson with Clemon and senior citizen bus trips with her sister Marty Lesnett. She enjoyed the sights and scenery, but especially the food. After moving to Edmond, she made trips to Maine, California, Oregon, Colorado, Virginia, South Carolina and Florida with son David and his wife Kay. She especially enjoyed trips to Pennsylvania, spending time with the large Motter (Kay’s) family. They became a dear part of her extended family.
Her faith was demonstrated through her active participation at First United Methodist Church in Watonga. She served as a Sunday School teacher, leader, and church treasurer. She was part of a small prayer group in Watonga and later at Quail Springs United Methodist in Oklahoma City, where she became a member after moving to Edmond. Her gift and witness was quiet, caring servanthood that blessed family and friends, customers and community members throughout her life.
Rita was preceded in death by her parents; her husband, Clemon; a sister, Martha Lesnett and nephew Steve Lesnett. She is survived by her children, David and wife Kay of Edmond, OK; Paul and wife Jeanne of Oklahoma City; Marcia Davis and husband Ben of Wilburton, OK; Don of Santa Fe, New Mexico; and niece Jo Allyson Lesnett. She is also survived by 16 grandchildren, 19 great grandchildren, 2 great great grandchildren, also a great niece and great nephew.
Viewing will be held Tuesday, January 19 from 10 am —8 pm at Wilkinson Mortuary in Watonga. A family-only service will be held with burial at the IOOF Cemetery in Watonga. The funeral service will be lived streamed at the United Methodist Church Facebook Page.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Watonga First United Methodist Church.