PRIME TIME: Rita Warton shares semi-retirement passions

  • Cassie Ruud  Aug 24, 2016

Rita is a long time member of Central Oregon Coast NOW.


News Guard File Photo

It’s been many years since Rita Warton left New Zealand for Lincoln City, with many stops along the way—San Francisco, Colorado, Nevada and Portland.

“I married an Englishman,” she said. “His parents lived in San Francisco so we went to join them.”

Afterward, she and her husband journeyed through Colorado and Nevada, circled back to San Francisco, moved up to Portland and eventually came to a rest on the Oregon coast in Lincoln City in 1988.

Although she may have come to a stop here, she is by no means done adventuring.

Although “semi-retired,” the septuagenarian is an active member of the local Kiwanis chapter, is the unofficial pianist for the Lincoln City Cultural Center, and is the president of the local music teacher association.

That is just the start of a long list of volunteer work and activities in which she participates.

Warton saw the move to Lincoln City as a way to pursue one of her strongest passions: teaching piano.

“I’ve been playing piano almost all my life,” she said. “I performed at Auckland University, but when we came out to the States I didn’t have a piano for a little while. Once we got one I spent a lot of time playing accompaniment for my children, who are all musicians. I think I played with every instrument in their school’s band.

When we came down here, I thought, ‘Finally! I get to teach!’”

She said the largest number of students she’s ever had was 27, who had to be divided up between homeschooled children (who she could work with during the day) and public school children (who she worked with in the evenings).

In addition to teaching students how to play piano, Warton said local churches would hire her to play the pipe organ.

She began looking for a location for her students to perform recitals—churches were available, but Warton explained that she wanted to find a neutral location to accommodate the differing beliefs of her students.

“When the Cultural Center started going they had a place next to Price N Pride,” she said. “The last recital I held there—half the room was full of art and the rest of the room had 51 chairs; all full with a few people standing. I thought, ‘God this is terrible.’”

Warton smiled, “And then we got hold of the DeLake school. The first recital I held there was on Mother’s Day and I think we had between 70-80 people show up, parents and grandparents and such. And it was just so nice to have a place where we could play and everyone would come to it. It was wonderful.”

Warton has since been “a huge supporter of the Cultural Center” playing piano for them at coffee concerts and for the Missoula Children’s Theatre performances.

When she isn’t out volunteering and teaching piano, Warton can be found at her home in Neotsu, gardening, practicing piano, reading and working on jigsaw puzzles.

All of her activities feed into her philosophy of staying busy after retirement.

“You stay alive, that’s the value of it,” Warton said, laughing. “It has a lot to do with it. If you just sit around and end up watching television or getting bored, it’s not good for you. I tend to keep busy. The more friends you have, the better. The more things you do, the better. That is my philosophy- I wake up in the morning, my feet hit the floor and I think, ‘Oh! I’ve got another day. What can I do today?’”

For those who will one day reach retirement, Warton recommends diving into volunteering.

“Join a service club, go work at the library; just do something on the side that can become a bigger part of your life once you finish working,” she said. “Because it’s a big change for people when they finish working. I have seen them just stop. They don’t have enough friends, they don’t have enough things to keep them occupied and they just sort of stop. The next thing you know they aren’t around anymore and that’s not good. Or they’re running around seeing doctors constantly. And what is the point in that?”

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