Plymouth – Rita A. Cleveland died Tuesday, April 23, 2019 at the age of 87. Born in West Chop on February 2, 1932, to Llewellyn and Lydia West Cleveland, she was the youngest of seven children who helped her father at his florist business and later worked at the greenhouse and family vegetable stand in the summers with her siblings Elizabeth, Melvin, Lena, Ruth, Harold and Marjorie.
An independent spirit who wanted to go off island after graduating from Tisbury High School in 1950, she attended the Katherine Gibbs School to get her Associates degree in business. With her degree in hand, she took a series of office manager jobs in Boston and Cambridge - her niece Nancy Downey remembers her for the stylish figure she made when coming home to visit family. Always close with her mother, Lydia Cleveland, they drove across country together to work in California for a few years.
Rita returned to live and work in Boston where she later met and married John Bala in 1963 and had two children Anne and Greg. Thereafter, the family kept her address written in pencil as she moved every two years throughout New England, Maryland and New York over her 23 year marriage. After the divorce she moved to Dunedin, Florida so that her children could attend and graduate from the University of South Florida in Tampa.
Missing New England she drove back up to Cape Cod with her sister Marjorie in 1990. She married and divorced two more times moving back and forth from Massachusetts to New York and then to Daytona, Florida before deciding to return to New England and live with her daughter in Merrimac, Massachusetts in 1999. She had a love of interior design, decorating and gardening which she put to good use in the six homes they lived in over 20 years, finally residing in Plymouth for the last six years of her life – a record for staying in one place according to her family.
Rita loved the Vineyard and enjoyed long summer visits and Thanksgiving with her sister Marjorie and extended family. She enjoyed the holiday gatherings and seeing her nieces and nephews grow up and having families of their own. She loved going for long walks on the beach looking for sea glass or trying for the brass ring on the Flying Horses. Always active and on the go, she and her daughter would go exploring different towns and cities to discover great restaurants and bakeries to indulge her sweet tooth.
Rita is survived by her children, daughter Anne Bala and son Greg Bala and his wife Kristen. A proud Grandmother, she enjoyed spoiling her granddaughters Delaney and Shey as well as her grandson Luke. Her family will miss the holiday meals together, her laughter and her wonderful cooking.
There will be a private burial on May 11th at the Oak Grove Cemetery, Vineyard Haven. We invite our friends and family to a gathering to celebrate her life on Saturday, June 8th from 1 - 4pm at the Mayflower House, 4 Winslow Street in Plymouth Massachusetts. In lieu of flowers, please send donations in her name to the Salvation Army.