WelCom December 2023
Over 75 years of devotion to Convent Old Girls Netball Club and netball in the Hutt Valley were celebrated at the funeral Mass for Rita Barker (nee McNeil) at ‘her’ Ss Peter and Paul Church in Lower Hutt, on 27 July.
The youngest of nine siblings Rita was married to the late Peter for 64 years. She died at Shona McFarlane Retirement Village in Lower Hutt at the age of 92.
Rita was a prominent netball icon in the Hutt Valley with Convent Old Girls and a New Zealand Catholic Tennis player. She was a Catholic Women’s League member throughout her life and an active parishioner at St Peter and Paul’s Church.
Rita was one of Convent’s greatest supporters and could be seen cheering on her beloved club every Saturday as COG took to the court. COG is the only original club still in existence in the Hutt Valley. It began in 1934 and was set up so the students leaving the college could continue their interest in ‘basketball’ and their association with the college. COG have won many Hutt Valley basketball and netball championships and went a number of seasons without a loss in the era of Hutt Valley Basketball Assn.
Rita became heavily involved with Hutt Valley Netball first as a player – she was selected in the NZ representative team, touring with them to Fiji in 1954. She served as coach, manager and committee member of both COG and the Hutt Valley Executive. In 1977 she received a NHV Service Award and in 1885 a HV Umpires Service Award (she rose to the ranks of a NZ umpire). In 2008 she was made a life member of Netball Hutt Valley. She was also a recipient of the Lower Hutt City Council Civic Award in 1978 for her involvement with netball.
Rita along with her niece Catherine McLaughlin, Maureen Fairweather and Katie Harris, headed a group for the 75th Jubilee of Convent.
In his eulogy at Rita’s funeral Mass, Rita and Peter’s eldest son Paul Barker said, ‘From Rita’s Irish parents came the legacy of her Catholic faith. Mum witnessed to that faith in attendance at daily Mass, involvement in the Catholic Women’s League, and as caterer to innumerable funeral teas at this church. She had a love of the Rosary. It’s hard for today’s generation to imagine putting down the knife and fork at the end of a meal and getting on your knees around the dining table for a few decades of the Rosary. That’s what happened in our house.’
Known as ‘Aunty Rita’ to many, netball was her passion and Convent was her club. On Saturday 22 July, COG supporters wearing red and the senior team stood as one in a touching tribute to ‘Aunty Rita’ before their game at the Walter Nash Stadium.
Rita is survived by her children Paul, Diane, Catherine and Stephen, seven grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
Source: Diane Barker