Rita Shoaf Speas passed away quietly on Saturday, March 21, 2020, with her husband and daughter at her side. She was born February 11, 1929, in Lexington, NC, and attended schools in Georgia until 1943, when she moved with her family to the Canal Zone. She graduated from Cristobal High School second in her class in 1945 at the age of 16. She entered Duke University in 1945, where she met her husband, Irvin Gorrell Speas , when he noticed how much she loved to jitterbug. She graduated with honors in Accounting on June 6, 1949, and they married in the Duke Chapel the following day. At Duke, she was Phi Beta Kappa and a member of Alpha Chi Omega Fraternity.
The couple moved to Charlotte, NC, to work for Duke Power Co. Their daughter, Patricia Speas Grinsted, was born there on July 16, 1951. In November, 1951, they moved to Oak Ridge, TN where Irvin went to work at the Y-12 plant. Their son, Gary Weldon Speas, was born there on May 16, 1953.
In addition to her role as wife, mother and homemaker, Rita was very active in church work at the First United Methodist Church in Oak Ridge, particularly with the United Methodist Women.
In 1960, Rita enrolled in Business Education at the University of Tennessee and earned her Teacher’s Certificate in 1962. She taught one year at Norris High School before moving to Oak Ridge High School, where she remained until her retirement in 1988. During her teaching career, she earned her Master’s Degree in Business Education at University of Tennessee. She was very active and recognized for her work on several State committees designing programs in Vocational Education. She taught business lab programs from 1965 to 1972, when she initiated the Cooperative Office Education Program, partnering with businesses in the community to give her students valuable on-the-job experience which translated to employment and career opportunities upon graduation from high school.
Rita and Irvin loved attending high school football and basketball games even after their retirement when not travelling to destinations all over the world. She also enjoyed dancing, gardening hiking and swimming until her health limited these activities.
Rita was preceded in death by her parents, Henry Weldon Shoaf and Mary Roma Butler Shoaf, and her sister, Beverly Sue Shoaf Kitchens.
Rita is survived by her husband of 71 years, Irvin Gorrell Speas; her daughter, Patricia (Albert); her son, Gary (Rita); her grandchildren, Jennifer, Justin, Evan, and Byron; and her beloved great grandchildren, Collin, Sawyer, Dawson and Ryker.
In consideration of current concerns regarding the Coronavirus (Covid-19) and limitations on public gatherings, a family service will be held on Thursday, March 26, 2020 at 10 am at Weatherford Mortuary with Rev. Jenny Caughman officiating. The interment will follow at Oak Ridge Memorial Park. An online guest book can be signed at www.weatherfordmortuary.com.
February 11, 1929 - March 21, 202002/11/192903/21/2020