Iowa 4-H Foundation

Posted on August 24, 2015 at 4:38 PM by Global Reach

Rita Mersch

Rita Mersch was a 4-H leader of the Eagle Red Peppers for 20 years from 1964-1984.  Sadly, Rita passed away in 2002. She became a leader when her oldest daughter, had been a 4-H member for approximately three years. She was a 4-H leader for all three of her daughters.  She officially resigned as the leader a year after a daughter graduated from high school.

Rita treated all of the 4-H girls as her own.  She taught them personally how to sew, bake and refinish furniture.  She often involved community members to teach skills that she did not have like knitting and crocheting.  Her focus was to push each girl to learn these basic skills to carry on to adulthood.  However, her impact on each of these girls went much further.  Through her leadership, the 4-H members learned how to speak in public, be responsible, respectful, and compassionate. They learned the true meaning of caring about their club and community.  Rita saw something special in each 4-H girl.  Through, Rita’s nurturing and guidance, the girl accomplished a challenge she had not thought possible.

Rita was a role model to these girls that went well beyond the walls of the 4-H meeting room. The following is a quote from Carol Hamilton Frakes, a former member.

“Mrs. Rita Mersch was an exceptional 4-H leader. She possessed the traits that make a great leader which included patience and knowledge.  There were many evenings when my mother or I would call Rita with a question or concern. Her phone line was buzzing before fair time! She made 4-H fun and one of my best childhood experiences.”

Rita was a woman who touched the lives of the hundreds of girls who were members of the Eagle Red Peppers 4-H Club over the 20 years she was a leader. She did this quietly and without expecting recognition for her contributions to their lives. In fact, she didn’t want the recognition. She sincerely and unconditionally wanted to help these girls learn basic life. Countless times a former 4-H member has mentioned to the family the impact Rita had and continues to have on their lives.

Angela Nelson Wesselink, a former 4-H member says, “I don’t know if I can put into words how much Rita Mersch made a difference in my life during a time when I desperately needed someone.  Rita was my 4-H leader for six years. She was so much more than just a leader.  She taught me how to sew, cook, clean, make crafts, how to complete my record book and be a responsible citizen.  She also was there for me when my mother suddenly died.  Rita was a big support for me and my sister, who found ourselves lost without our mom.  She went over and above the duties of a 4-H leader.  When I look back on my life, Rita’s name is one of the first that comes to mind when I think of people whom I respect and admire.”

Rita Mersch, did not make money or win state and national awards by being a 4-H leader.   What she did was touch the hearts of hundreds of young 4-H girls.  The impact of her leadership is being felt well beyond the 20 years she was a 4-H leader. 

Categories: Wright

As a new 4-H club leader in the 60's, I saw Rita as a role model of what a "great" 4-H leader was. I am so pleased that Wright County has recognized her leadership and that her husband and children and grandchildren could receive the recognition on her behalf. Florine Swanson Retired Ex. Director Iowa 4-H Foundation
Florine Swanson | 3/20/23 at 3:16 AM
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