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From Wareham’s cranberry bogs to New Bedford’s Aerovox assembly line, Rita Alice Lopes (1915?-1999) emerged as a community activist who advocated for children, the elderly and Cape Verdeans. Described as a mover and a shaker, Rita founded a youth center in Onset to provide educational and recreational opportunities for neighborhood young people. She was a founding member of the Cape Verde Islands Relief Association, the Cape Verdean Scholarship Committee, and the Friends of Wareham’s Elderly.

From Wareham’s cranberry bogs to New Bedford’s Aerovox assembly line, Rita Alice Lopes (1915?-1999) emerged as a community activist who advocated for children, the elderly and Cape Verdeans.

Described as a mover and a shaker, Rita championed many causes. She founded a youth center in Onset to provide educational and recreational opportunities for neighborhood young people. The youth center organized lectures, field trips and theatrical performances written and directed by Rita herself. She was a founding member of both the Cape Verde Islands Relief Association and the Cape Verdean Scholarship Committee. The Cape Verde Islands Relief Association is a non-profit grassroots fund-raising organization for the Cape Verde Islands. As one of the presidents of the Wareham Friends of the Ernestina, Rita advocated for the schooner’s return to the U.S. In support of the elderly, Rita founded the Friends of Wareham’s Elderly and served on the board of the Wareham Council on Aging. She formed the Saint Margaret and Saint Mary’s Star of the Sea Guild, a group that addressed the needs of the sick at home and in nursing homes. Politically active, Rita served on the Wareham Democratic Town Committee as well as the Plymouth County Democratic League.

A woman of faith, Rita was active in numerous religious organizations. A member of the Confraternity of Christian Board of Directors, she chaired its “We Care, We Share” program in support of interdenominational fellowship. As a member of Our Lady’s Rosary Circle of Onset, Rita made close to 2,500 rosaries, sent to those in need across the world. A Eucharistic Minister and a lector, she was awarded the Marian Medal by the Diocese of Fall River for her outstanding service to the Church.

Rita was married to James C. Lopes and had two daughters, Eleanor and Rita Ellen. She passed away on January 9, 1999, at age 83, from ovarian cancer. That same year, she was posthumously recognized at the annual Cape Verdean Recognition Day organized by the Cape Verde Islands Relief Association.

Ann O’Leary

Information from

Akahloun, Eleanor Lopes. The Magic of Dreams: An American Diplomat’s Journey. Xlibris, 2014.

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