Obituaries

Rita Smith-Wade-El, 70

December 29, 2018

Rita Smith-Wade-El, 70, passed away early in the morning of Dec. 29, 2018, at her Lancaster city home, following a 10-year battle with triple-negative breast cancer. She was surrounded by family and friends at the time of her death.

Rita was born to James Edward and Eva Mae (born Stephens) Smith on October 1, 1948, in Washington, D.C. After graduating from McKinley Technical High School in Washington, she attended Barnard College, earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She went on to earn her doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania, beginning a long career in academia. After teaching at East Stroudsburg University, Temple University, and the University of Pennsylvania, she moved to Lancaster, and began teaching at Millersville University.

It was at Millersville where she would spend the next 35 years of her career. There, she founded the African American Studies Minor, and the Black Culture Celebration, contributing also to numerous other programs and institutes. She remained on the faculty at Millersville until her death, teaching courses until the end of summer and advising students well into the fall of 2018.

A lifelong Catholic, Rita was a parishioner, lector, Eucharistic minister, and member of the social justice committee at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church. Her faith and sense of justice guided her to overcome many of the hurdles set before her, and to devote her life to the service of others. Her namesake was St. Rita of Cascia, a patron of impossible causes – a role Dr. Smith-Wade-El embraced with fervor, as was Rita.

Her colleagues, students, and friends will remember her loving but no-nonsense attitude, her tireless work ethic, and her bottomless material and spiritual generosity. They will also remember her love of Motown music, of the color red (which covered her kitchen cabinets, her coats, her furniture, and her car), and of being right.

She is survived by her two sons – Ayodele Smith-Jackson (38), and Ismail-Smith-Wade-El (29), as well as countless students, friends, colleagues, and communities, which are less for her passing and more for what she has left behind.

Thursday, January 10, 2019 there will be a viewing starting at 5:30pm at Charles F. Snyder Funeral Home located at 414 E. King St., Lancaster, PA 17602. At 7:30pm on Thursday there will be an Eastern Star Funeral Service followed by an Omega Omega Ceremony by the sisters of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority at 8:00pm. Friday, January 11, 2019, the viewing time will begin at 6:00pm at Charles F. Snyder Funeral Home. At 8:30pm there will be a rosary prayer service held by the Catholic Daughters of the Americas followed by Divine Office held by the Secular Order of the Discalced Carmelites – Harrisburg Chapter. Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Saturday, January 12, 2019 at 11:00am at Sacred Heart Catholic Church located at 558 W Walnut St, Lancaster, PA 17603 with Reverend Michael Messner as Celebrant. Guests will be received at the church between 10:00am and 11:00am. Following services, guest will be invited to a luncheon at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Interment will be private.

The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to the Lancaster County Community Foundation at 24 W King Street, Suite 201, Lancaster, PA 17603, with a note that the contribution is intended for the Dr. Rita Smith-Wade-El Legacy Fund.

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Condolences to the Family

January 30, 2019

I only ever had one class with Dr. Rita Smith-Wade-El… The Black Woman. She taught me lessons that went far beyond the class material… things that changed my perspective for life.
 She taught me that change requires action and actions speak louder than words. She taught me the difference between simply receivng an education and claiming my education. Most importantly in my own personal growth, she taught me that the idea of being colorblind was a luxury afforded to me only through my own white privilege…a concept that was foreign to me at that time.  It changed my wold view and I am forever indebted to her for that.
I’m sure she wouldn’t have remembered me, but I sincerely regret not thanking her while I was able.  I will never forget her!

January 13, 2019

So sorry for your loss. I had the privilege of working with Rita on her speaker contracts. Together, we solved many problems over the years! Rita was a special lady who will never be forgotten.

January 12, 2019

Dr. Wade-El was my professor at Millersville more than 20 years ago.  I still vividly remember her and her class.  I learned things that stay with me still today.  She was perhaps the most memorable professor I had in my 4 years at MU.  Condolences to her family.

January 11, 2019

I graduated (Psychology degree) from MU 25+ years ago. Rita was the first faculty that I met and who inspired me to choose MU. We became rather close and stayed in touch for years. When I think of her I think of her energy and spirit – and with it how many people’s minds she helped open and whose lives she helped mold, me being one. She is part of so many warm memories. I hope your own warm memories bring you some comfort, and eventually smiles.

January 10, 2019

Rita fought a good fight, ran a good race and joined the angels in Heaven.

January 07, 2019

Though I only had the pleasure of knowing Dr. Rita for a short time, she was still one of the biggest influences on my current outlook on both education and what it means to be a strong individual. Her dedication to her students was unparalleled, as was her sense of truth and commitment. My thoughts are with her family, of whom she spoke often, and I assure them that her legacy will be one of greatness and compassion carried forth by all who knew her as an outstanding individual and cultivator of wisdom and knowledge.

January 07, 2019

This is to offer sympathy for the family of Dr. Smith Wade-El.  I’m thankful for having known her, if only a little.  She had offered mentoring in my worklife responsibility for ‘diversity awareness & education’ when this was new and early-stage in being offered.  I appreciated her willingness to provide insight, encouragement — and push-back and questions.  She was impressive, intimidating, and real; while I wasn’t lucky enough to have been one of her students at Millersville, I was grateful for the teaching she provided me. ~ Holly

January 06, 2019

My condolences to the family of Dr. Rita Smith Wade El, a great intellectual, civil rights & community advocate, generous & inspiring person, and righteous sister in our Christian faith and uplift of minority communities and of women.  She helped myself and many others seeking growth, development, progress, and justice.  Rita, your God-given skill-sets, talents, friendship, and people motivation, raised our social consciousness and drive for justice and equality for ALL.  You made a real difference!!!         

January 06, 2019

My deepest and heartfelt condolences to Rita’s family especially her sons, Ayodele and Ismail, in their time of grief. I met Rita a little over six years ago although it felt like a lifetime. She has left me with so many memories of time spent with her, insomuch that I deemed myself fortunate to have known her. She is and was a bigger than life legend. Rest in peace with Jesus Rita and I will never forget you.
Christine Bousigard

January 05, 2019

My deepest and heartfelt condolences to Rita’s family especially her sons, Ayodele and Ismail, in their time of grief. I met Rita a little over six years ago although it felt like a lifetime. She has left me with so many memories of time spent with her, insomuch that I deemed myself fortunate to have known her. She is and was a bigger than life legend. Rest in peace with Jesus Rita and I will never forget you.

January 04, 2019

Wanted to extend my condolences to the family. She was an amazing spirit!! I enjoyed our conversations, though brief, she always made sure my next steps were positive!! Thank you for your guidance, and positive words. Rest in Peace. My thoughts and prayers are with you all. 
Charmaine Williams

January 03, 2019

I offer my deepest condolences to Rita’s family.  I met Rita many years ago during my employment at MU and always considered her a force of nature.  She seemed to have endless energy, a tireless devotion to students, and a great love for books.  I’m thankful for her presence in my life, and I pray that today she rests in Paradise.

January 03, 2019

Extending Our Total Condolences!

January 03, 2019

My Deepest condolences to you and your family during this difficult time. Your mother was an amazing woman and she will truly be missed.
My deepest condolences,
Shannon Butler- LaCoot & Family 

January 03, 2019

Dr. Rita touched many in our community.  Her energy and sense of fairness will be missed. Please know that her influence was positive.  While our paths did not often cross at Millersville, I’m glad to have known her.
 
Sincerely,
Molly Henderson, Ed.D.

January 03, 2019

To Rita’s family and friends, colleagues and students…
Your Rita, our Rita, God’s Rita touched, healed, inspired and trained a battalion of justice-seekers. I am one of them.  Bless you Rita, rest peacefully in your healed body, we’ll still call on you from your mansion in Heaven! Pray for us!

January 03, 2019

My wife Deb and I knew Rita for many years. Deb was a probation officer and volunteer coordinator for Lancaster County matching civilians to mentor inmates in jail. I was the associate warden at the jail. Rita was one of several MU professors who toured the jail with students in their classes, sent students for internship experiences, but Rita was also a volunteer mentor. We had a few lively, enlightening and enjoyable conversations regarding the criminal justice system. She was a tireless advocate and nice lady. As fellow Catholics, she is in our thoughts and prayers. GOD Bless. I will light a candle for her at mass. Deepest condolances, Rita will be missed.
Bob & Debbie BODNAR

Visitation
Thursday, January 10, 2019
5:30 PM - 8:30 PM
Charles F. Snyder Funeral Home & Crematory
414 East King Street
Lancaster, PA 17602
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Visitation
Friday, January 11, 2019
6:00 PM - 9:00 PM
Charles F. Snyder Funeral Home & Crematory
414 East King Street
Lancaster, PA 17602
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Visitation
Saturday, January 12, 2019
10:00 AM - 11:00 AM
Sacred Heart Catholic Church
558 W Walnut St
Lancaster, PA
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Services
Saturday, January 12, 2019
11:00 AM
Sacred Heart Catholic Church
558 W Walnut St
Lancaster, PA
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