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Lila Emma Maria Rhen

Lila Emma Maria Rhen

Teacher, Traveler, Storyteller!

2 October 1922 - 25 June 2013

Age 90 of Anoka, MN. Beloved mother, aunt, grandmother, and great-grandmother, died peacefully June 25, 2013. Born in Sinclair Township, MN, to Erick and Mary Rhen, she was preceded in death by her parents; her brother, Oscar; and her son, Charles. She will be deeply missed by her children James Pizarro, Maria Regina (Robert Ingalls), Jorge Seidel (Julie), Lila Bartoszek (Joseph) and godson, Eugene Olson (Karen); grandchildren Deborah Pizarro, Ned Regina (Julie Winslow), Erty Seidel, Kristen Seidel, Neva Hickman (Joseph), and Gram Pizarro (Kristen); great-grandchildren Elias Winslow Regina and Kai Winslow Regina, Silvio Hickman and Asa Hickman, Max Pizarro; and nieces Audrey Olson (Norman), Annette Rhen, and Erin Reed (George).

A reader, a farm girl, and a dreamer, Lila lived an adventurous and interesting life. While working on her teaching certificate at Bemidji State College in the early '40s, she practice-taught in one-room schools in rural northern Minnesota. Starting her "nomadic life," she moved with a friend to Seattle, WA in June, 1943. During WWII, Lila worked as an "aileron girl," connecting the wires that help steer the plane. With Boeing a strategic supplier of war planes, it was a target for sabotage, and a plane Lila was working on was the target of one such attempt -- someone kicked the ladder out from under her as she was attaching the wires, causing her to fall. With the aileron wires now cutting into her wrist, she refused to release them, because if she had, it would have set back production of the plane by days. She held on, wrist bleeding profusely, and saved the plane from the sabotage attempt. They got someone up there to grab the wires, and the plane went on down the line. The saboteur was never caught, at least to Lila's knowledge. She had a big scar on her wrist the rest of her life.

While in Seattle, Lila met and married Jim Pizarro. They had a family of five children. Lila always said the only reason she had kids was so she could eventually be a grandmother. She got her wish with six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. During her life, she lived in Seattle and other towns in Washington State, New York City, northern Minnesota again, southern Minnesota, Delaware, New Jersey, Arizona, Colorado, California, Ohio, Indiana, Connecticut, and finally back to Minnesota.

Lila was a teacher first and foremost. She started her teaching career in a rural school near Tabor, Minnesota. Over the years, she taught multiple grades in rural schools and as a substitute teacher. In 1964, while teaching in Kingston, NJ, she got her bachelors degree at Trenton State College. Over the years, she spent most of her career teaching children with special challenges. Even in her 80's, she was still receiving cards from parents of children whose lives she had made easier and better through her patient teaching.

Lila loved to travel and always yearned to go to Australia. Having moved to Phoenix, AZ, in 1968, she fulfilled that dream when she was chosen as an exchange teacher to Australia in 1977. She spent a year in Australia, again teaching exceptional children and making life-long friends, many of whom were still in touch with her during her last years. After returning to Arizona, she taught until 1983 when she retired.

Upon retirement, Lila started her world travels. She took her mother, godson, niece, brother and close friend to Sweden on various trips, where they visited her mother's and father's relatives. She spoke Swedish so was able to talk to her extended family.

She also traveled to France, Budapest, Turkey, Mexico; and did an around-the-world trip from Colorado to Sweden, Italy, Greece, Egypt, Israel, India, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Hawaii, California, and back to Colorado! With family scattered east and west, north and south, she returned to Minnesota to be in the middle of the country. With her godson, Gene Olson, and his wife Karen close by, she had family near her during her last years. She lived in Anoka most recently.

Everyone who ever met Lila knows she was a real story-teller. Barbara Mitchell Hutton, a friend of Lila's grandson Erty's, commented, "She was a true force of nature. She cared deeply for children, especially her own grandchildren. She had a robust and easy laugh and never lacked a story whether it was relevant to the situation or not! Hers was a life well lived." Lila had stories of packs of wolves circling the horse-drawn sleighs as her family travelled home after visiting another farm of an evening in winter in northern Minnesota. She had tales of her adventures driving the Trans-Continental Highway in Mexico while it was still under construction in 1958. She reveled in sharing stories about her year in Australia. And she loved to brag about her kids, grandkids and great-grandkids as well as her special kids from her years of teaching. Her heart was full of love for children and those that knew her were the lucky ones.

Although Lila had a long list of charities to which she contributed, Heifer International is her preferred memorial. Heifer International has a "tribute" for Lila Rhen. Donations can be made online, over the phone or by mail. When making a donation, be sure to indicate that it is in memory of Lila Rhen.

To make a donation online:

1) go to the web site (, click the GIVE tab and pick Gift Catalog

2) select a donation (flock of chicks, a share in a heifer, a school for girls, etc.)

3) when you go to the shopping cart, there is a tag that says "Is this gift in honor of someone special? Click here to order cards." That's where you can create an honor card and send it to any of the family, letting them know of your donation in Lila's honor.

Heifer International Mailing Address, checks can be processed:

Heifer International

1 World Ave.

Little Rock, AR 72202

Phone: 855.9HUNGER (855.948.6437)

Fax: 501.907.2902

A celebration service of Lila's life is being held on Saturday, August 10, 2013 at 4:00PM at Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Leonard, Minnesota. Lila's family invites you to join them at the church during and after the Leonard Hard Times Bash luncheon being held in the church basement. Interment following the service at Sinclair Township Cemetery in Leonard, Minnesota. The Reverend Jeremiah Holtz will be officiating.