Rita Gilmore Allen Fitzgibbon
November 4, 1926 – October 30, 2020
Born November 1926 at Lake Whitney (Hill Country) Texas, she graduated at the early age of 15 as Valedictorian of her class. Always an honor student, she attended Texas Women’s University and later Southwestern University as a pre-med major, pledging Phi Mu Society.
She was an avid world traveler, loving and admiring the many positive, artistic, historical, political and socio-economic aspects of each of the many countries she visited. An active civic leader in San Antonio, TX, she moved to Laredo, TX, in 1955, and became a dynamic force who gave generously to her new community. She was an asset to all organizations in which she chose to work.
Always an animal lover, her first contribution to her new Laredo civic community was the result of a search for a new warehouse to be built to service the reactivated Laredo Air Force Base. In an effort to find a location, one cold winter rainy day she happened to come in contact with the Divine Sisters who lived in the western part of Laredo. The elderly and compassionate sisters had rescued twelve dogs that were being cared for in a muddy lot full of grocery crates, all surrounded by twisted and unsecure chicken wire. Rita immediately had her crating department of Allen Moving and Storage, construct twelve wooden dog houses as well as an open air shelter. She then had three employees close the lot with chain link fencing. She convinced a number of business owners to donate sacks of dog food each month to the shelter, and thus the Animal Protective Society was born and grew.
She founded the first chapter of the Jaycetts in Laredo, a women’s civic companion club to the Jr. Chamber of Commerce club of young local civic minded business men age 35 years old and younger who were all active in many areas and aspects of improving and developing the community of Laredo. She worked with Allen Skinner director of U.S. Customs and wife Hazel(both deceased).
During the inception of the International Good Neighbors Council in the early 1950’s, she traveled wildly throughout Mexico with her husband, and Renata & Angela Zapata, Sr.(deceased), Oscar(deceased) and Elsa Laurel, helping to establish chapters in the major cities of the Republic of Mexico. With her exceptional ability of organization, she hosted many receptions and celebrations both in her gardens and her home for the benefit of numerous charity events throughout the years. She not only was a business woman but enjoyed many interests including music, art, and dance. She served on the board of directors of the Civic Music Organization for many years with Genevieve Richter(deceased), working diligently for its success. She was always prominent in Laredo community social and civic life, and in her younger years a working member of Blessed Sacrament Altar Society, the PTA organizations of Ursuline Academy, St. Augustine, Mary Help of Christian Schools, and St. Joseph Academy.
She served for many years as an officer and director of the Pan American Round Table, acting as General Chairman of the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the local chapter and hosting many Cinco de Mayo celebrations in her extensive gardens. She served as a working member and an officer of the board of Directors of the Mercy Hospital Women’s Auxiliary organization helping to initiate St. Luis day honoring the local medical doctors and medical community.
Because of her organizational abilities, she was asked by Mary Solis(deceased), who was then civilian personnel director at Laredo Air Force Base, to sponsor the local chapter of Beta Sigma Phi, an International Organization of young women who are dedicated to civic and community work. At that time there were only three remaining members in the city of Laredo and only one chapter. Within one year, under her leadership, Beta Sigma Phi grew from one chapter and three members to five chapters (20 members each) a total of 100 members. This particular civic club, dedicated to community service, was responsible for many years (as long as the club existed in Laredo) for the direction and selection of the LADY OF THE YEAR from the Laredo community. Many distinguished women of Laredo were honored in this manner.
Beginning in 1955 she worked as chairman on numerous committees and served on the Board of Directors of the Women’s City Cub for many years. Working closely (1956-1958) with President Margie Hopson(deceased) the club increased from 45 members to 100. Coordinating with the president of the Women’s City Club, Virginia Wright Goodwin(deceased) she was the organizational Chairman for the first annual Charity Ball which exists to this date.
She was an organizer and member of the Cotillion Club as well as a member and supporter of the Newcomers and Friends Organization. She was responsible for the founding of the Stardusters Club, serving as president, director, and driving force throughout its existence.
In the 1950’s she was a woman pioneer in the field of transportation which was dominated by men, she was awarded several hundreds of government contacts for 30 years in Laredo, San Antonio, Del Rio and Kingsville, TX. She pioneered the movement of household goods shipments on international billing to and from Mexico, establishing tariffs, regulations and procedures for services which all major household goods and large transport corporations in the United States later used as a model when they entered that particular field of service at a much later date.
Her Patriotism to her Country could never be questioned. She was associated with the Federal Government in many intriguing and responsible capacities beginning in 1944 at age 17 years old. When called upon, she served with honor, integrity and dignity.
Despite her high visibility in the Laredo community civic and business areas, she was a genuine and warm person. She was very quiet, conservative and private in her personal life. She was a woman of perseverance, honor, gentle compassion, a silent pillar of strength, a loving wife, mother, grandmother, and always a caring and helping friend to many of all cultures and different socio-economic classes in the community of Laredo.
She was preceded in death by her father Earl C. Gilmore, Sr. a prominent and retired western and central Texas banker and her mother Zolena Overton Gilmore, an avid and retired educator, her first husband of 37 years M. E. Allen of San Antonio, TX, a graduate Naval Officer from the University of Texas during WWII, also a highly successful businessman of San Antonio and South Texas. Her only son Kenneth M. Allen, a 100% service connected disabled Vietnam Veteran who served in an area which was only partially declassified. He was also an alumnus of St. Joseph Academy in Laredo and St. Edwards High School and St. Edwards University in Austin. Only Brother Dr. Earl Gilmore and a well known internationally honored Doctor of Genetics as well as a Korean War Veteran and Instructor at the War College in Washington D.C., he also served behind the “iron curtain” during the U. S. “cold war” with Russia following WWII.
Her second husband(deceased), of 34 years married Rita G. Allen at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Laredo, TX, on October 2, 1982. Lt. Col John E. Fitzgibbon was an honored WWII pilot and instructor with the USAF, performing many bombing missions over enemy territory in Europe. He was a highly successful and well respected known Texas attorney, a true legend in his own life. He shared a great love with his devoted wife Rita.
Left to cherish her memory is her daughter Marlene Evans (Albert) Benavides; grandchildren, Evangeline De Vermilion, Elizabeth Evans, Elise Evans, and Tex Benavides; great-grandchildren, Elias Thompson, David Scott Thompson, and Vincent Evans.
The family would like to express their utmost gratitude to Dr. Luis Benavides & Staff, Ricardo Salinas, Analy Arreola, Claudia Moreno, and J & R Medical for all their care and attention.
The Family will have a Memorial Mass on Saturday, November 7, 2020 at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church at 11:30 am. Inurnment will be at the Laredo City Cemetery.
Funeral arrangements are by Fred Dickey Funeral & Cremation Services, 1320 Trey Dr., Laredo, Texas 78041 (956) 723-3611. For your convenience, you may leave your condolences to the family online at www.freddickey.com