One wartime bomb, one lucky escape and one young woman’s death were the secret driving force behind the work of one of Chatteris’ busiest people – Rita Goodger, who sadly died today (Friday).
There is hardly any organisation, group or club in the town which has not been graced by Rita’s energetic presence. Even the Citizen enjoyed some of Rita’s enthusiasm when she wrote for our former Citizen Extra publication in the early 2000s.
She held positions many organisations including the Girl Guides – she was their president, and it was only when ill-health struck in 2007 that she finally had to slow down.
Many will remember her as a teacher at first at the High School and then later the Cromwell School, teaching Geography alongside her late husband Jack who taught English. She was a teacher for more than 36 years, she was also a wife and mother to only daughter Christine. While a full-time, demanding job and motherhood would be more than enough for most people to cope with it was not for Rita.
She claimed she never had time to feel tired and when you look at the long list of commitments outside of work and home, you begin to see why.
She was a town councillor, district councillor, she was on the Community Health Trust and other similar committees too numerous to count but also includes social services, police consultation, gas consultation and several school governing bodies.
On the social side she was a member of the Good Companions, Business and Professional Women, the WI, Guides, Arthritis Care and if that was not enough she also enjoyed courses especially in cooking.
But she also took part in choir singing, choral speaking, sewing, embroidery, and dancing. Drama was another major passion and she did courses in makeup and public speaking to help with this.
It was the sad loss of a fellow college student that provided Rita with the drive to do all of these things. Rita and her fellow students were bombed in the house they shared at teacher training college and three were killed, and if it had not been for a twist of fate one of them would have been Rita.
Doing a good deed for one of the other girls who couldn’t sleep in the bed she had been allocated Rita offered to swap with her – hours later a bomb fell. Rita was dug alive from the rubble, but her friend died.
Speaking in 2007 Rita explained:“I never got over that you know, I have always thought it was my fault – I felt so guilty.
“It has haunted me all these years and I had to keep busy to keep my mind off it,” said Rita.
There was just one thing Rita failed to do and that was travel.
Her late husband Jack wanted to settle down for a couple of years after spending six years in the army and they ended up staying in the town where Rita grew-up.
And it was to the benefit of Chatteris. Without her things like the Fenland Car Scheme would never have got off the grid, the town’s ARC group would not have been launched and the town’s museum would not have received an amazing archive of photographs from Rita’s amazingly huge collection.
There are few events that have happened in the town in the past 80 odd years or more that has not been captured and catalogued in her hundreds of albums.
Speaking again in 2007 said: “I have had a lucky life. I have not always been good, I have disobeyed the law in my time, but mostly I have been happy and I don’t think anyone can ask for more than that.”
As well as her daughter Christine Thrower, Rita also leaves son-in-law Anthony, grandson Alastair and great grandsons Jack (10) and Ben (7).