Rita Killory, at 90; teacher, volunteer, amateur historian
At the urging of a daughter, Rita M. Killory put pen to paper about a decade ago and wrote a memoir for her children.
“You may receive more information than you desire,” she said in an introductory paragraph, “but I shall try to tell you the story of my childhood that will give you an insight into what it was like to be a child of the ’20s and ’30s.”
In clear, unadorned prose, she went on to describe her parents’ early lives, her mother’s death from tuberculosis when Mrs. Killory was 6, and the everyday activities of children who, despite economic hardship, found fun and joy growing up in Weymouth.
At the end of the seven-page missive, she described the memoir as “an honest picture of my experiences as a child in a nonmaterialistic world” and said, “I close now with gratitude for a lifetime of happiness.”
Mrs. Killory died of heart failure May 15 at Newfield House in Plymouth. She was 90 and had lived most of her life in Weymouth and Sandwich.
Besides being an amateur historian, Mrs. Killory taught fifth-graders in the Weymouth public schools, volunteered for several community organizations, tracked every Red Sox game on a batter-by-batter scorecard, and raised five children.
Born in Weymouth, Rita Kearns grew up an only child whose younger brother had died in childbirth. After her mother died, she was raised by her father, a bus and trolley driver.
“Although I was very much aware that I didn’t have my mother,” Mrs. Killory wrote, “I had a devoted father I could confide in, an aunt who cared, great neighborhood friends, and a happy school life. Many of my friends had heartaches.”
Her father struggled financially during the Great Depression, but she knew her friends and neighbors did too. She also knew she was better off than many.
“I never felt poor because we all put elastics on the loose soles of our shoes to delay a cobbler’s visit,” she wrote. “On our way to junior and senior high school, my friends and I were aware of the lines of men receiving free food at the fire station daily.”
In addition to recording her childhood memories, she wrote a thorough, carefully researched account of her grandfather’s experience as a Union soldier in the Civil War, fighting at Gettysburg and in other pivotal battles, and reenlisting despite being wounded twice.
“Grandpa seldom talked about the war,” she wrote, and she predicted that readers would be “amazed as I that anyone could survive the incredible conditions and utter misery that he and all the Union and Confederate soldiers endured.”
While in her 60s, Mrs. Killory researched and recorded far-reaching family trees for her family and her husband’s family.
Her son Ted of Boston said she wrote everything by hand in her “amazing penmanship.” On a Smith Corona typewriter, her husband typed what she wrote.
“Old-school, all the way,” her son said.
She met Joseph Killory when both were students at Bridgewater State Teachers College and a professor seated them alphabetically.
“My mom turned around and just started talking to him,” her son said. “She had the gift of gab. She could strike up a conversation with anyone.”
After graduating, they took teaching jobs and married in 1944, just before he shipped out with the Navy. He was stationed in the Pacific when their first child was born.
Mrs. Killory gave up teaching to raise her children. Her husband, meanwhile, was a superintendent of schools for different communities, including Teaneck, N.J., where the family relocated for several years.
He later became the first executive director of the Metco program.
In later years, she was a substitute teacher and volunteered for institutions and organizations including the Sandwich Public Library, Meals on Wheels, food pantries, and nursing homes.
In 2002, when she left Sandwich to return to Weymouth, the Sandwich Board of Selectman honored her for her contributions to the community.
Her son said she learned from her father the importance of helping others. As an adult, Mrs. Killory became involved in the civil rights movement and appealed to others to do the same.
“Once I asked her where all this world consciousness had come from,” her son said. “She said that it wasn’t world consciousness, she was just following the golden rule, as her parents had taught her to.”
For years, Mrs. Killory kept up a correspondence with her father.
When all her children went to college, she wrote each a weekly letter without fail.
“She let us know what was going on at home or talked about the politics of the day,” her son said. “We probably acted like it was no big deal, but secretly we all looked forward to getting those letters.”
Mrs. Killory’s husband died in 2007.
In addition to her son, Mrs. Killory leaves another son, David of Plymouth; three daughters, Ann of New York City, Susan Killory Lea of Poland, Maine, and Sarah of Bethesda, Md.; 12 grandchildren; and 15 great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held June 16 at 10 a.m. in her son David’s home.
During Mrs. Killory’s childhood, her father, who had played for the Weymouth town league, instilled in her a love of baseball.
“Along with her devotion to family and friends, she was a passionate and steadfast Red Sox fan,” her son said. “She always found time to score games . . . when she wasn’t second-guessing the manager.”
Kathleen McKenna can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.