Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Miss Rita Made a Difference

Rita Sanders Keoun
Bossier Parish Police Juror, Jimmy Walker, motioned on May 7, 1987, for the Bossier Parish Police Jury to declare Jun. 14, 1987 as “Rita Keoun Appreciation Day.” The resolution was passed, and a Special Committee of the Bossier Parish Library Board was assembled to organize the dedication ceremony activities for the newly expanded Plain Dealing branch, including recognizing Rita Keoun for her many years of service.

Miss Rita, as she was most affectionately known, was born in Plain Dealing on Dec. 8, 1901. After graduating high school in 1918, she went to Louisiana Polytechnic Institute in Ruston, La, where she completed her education degree in 1923. For the first six years of her teaching career, Miss Rita taught home economics and anything else they needed her to teach. First, in Lisbon and then in Hosston, until R.V. Kerr offered her a teaching position in Plain Dealing, bringing her back home to the community she loved.

For the next forty years, Miss Rita taught second grade to children in Plain Dealing. As a lifelong educator, she was also a lifelong learner, returning to school during summer breaks, eventually receiving a master’s degree in primary education.

In Nov. 1949, Keoun joined the Bossier Parish Library Board of Control and was elected president in 1960. In her forty-plus years on the board, she only missed one meeting due to car troubles. She served without pay or expense reimbursement because she felt she could be of service, and because of her love for education. Public libraries are, after all, a vital part of the educational system in America.

Miss Rita was recognized for her contributions by many organizations on a regional, state, and national level. She was the recipient of the 1980 James O. Modisette Award for Public Library Trustees. Not only did the parish recognize her on “Rita Keoun Appreciation Day,” Governor Edwin Edwards proclaimed Jun. 14, 1987, as “Rita Keoun Day” as well. When asked how she felt about her special day, Miss Rita responded by saying, “I was embarrassed to death.” In another interview, she asked the writer not to make her “look special.” It’s clear she was not in it for the recognition; her only concern was making a difference.

Rita Sanders Keoun, honored at the dedication ceremony of the Plain Dealing Library.
On Rita Sanders Keoun Appreciation Day, June 14, 1987. Ada Myreck Collection: 1997.005.002.

Outside of teaching and serving on the library board, Miss Rita was also involved in numerous civic organizations. She served on the committee that created and presented a memorial plaque honoring the two hundred WWII veterans that were graduates and teachers from Plain Dealing High School, a gift of the 1944 graduating class. When the Bossier Parish Teachers’ Association was founded, May 1946, Miss Rita served as its first treasurer. She was a founding member of the Plain Dealing Kadelphian Club and a member of the Plain Dealing Dogwood Drive Association.
Miss Rita was on the Bossier Restoration Foundation, in which she was elected president in 1974. Anytime there were any national fundraisers, she often served as the chairman of the local chapter, including the American Red Cross Roll Call campaign, Infantile Paralysis Foundation, March of Dimes, and the Cancer Fund. For sixty-seven years, she was a devoted member of the Plain Dealing First United Methodist Church, teaching Sunday school for at least fifty of those years.

Miss Rita made a difference in Bossier Parish with her lifelong passion for educating and serving others. In a final recognition of her dedication and service to the parish, the Plain Dealing branch of the Bossier Parish Library was renamed the “Rita Sanders Keoun Memorial Plain Dealing Branch” shortly after her death in 1991.

By: Amy Robertson

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