Rita Marie McDevitt: Local matriarch devoted to faith, family

Special to the Town Crier
Rita Marie McDevitt grew up, married and worked in San Francisco before moving to Los Altos in 1950.

Rita Marie McDevitt, daughter of Irish immigrants, who taught third grade for 10 years before retiring to raise her six children, became a matriarch of teachers, scholars, scientists and athletes. She died peacefully Aug. 22 with her children present at Villa Siena in Mountain View. She was 94.

Mrs. McDevitt passed on her faith and passion for learning to family members and beyond; she was the family photographer and daily scribe, renowned for keeping notes on the doings and accomplishments of her husband, John B. McDevitt, children and grandchildren. She was an avid swimmer, golfer, gardener and reader.

A teacher of profound caring, Mrs. McDevitt and her husband taught piano to one daughter, horseback riding to two daughters, golf to three sons and swimming to their youngest daughter. Her son Mike recalled that as a little boy, if no siblings were available, his mom would toss a baseball with him in the backyard. She served as a den mother for her sons’ Boy Scout troop, a substitute teacher at St. Francis High School and a devoted volunteer at St. Simon Catholic Parish, where she and John were founding members.

Born Dec. 18, 1923, Mrs. McDevitt was the daughter of Margaret Ann King from Clifden, Connemara, and John Joseph Harrison from Roscommon, Ireland. Her father worked as a firefighter and her mother ran a grocery in San Francisco. She met John B. McDevitt at St. Mary’s Church in San Francisco and married him July 17, 1954.

Mrs. McDevitt taught in San Francisco before moving down the Peninsula to Los Altos with her husband, who accepted a position in 1950 as an aeronautical engineer at Ames Research Center, where he conducted experiments for NASA. She was immensely proud of a U.S. flag from NASA, presented to John for research that contributed to Apollo space flights. The flag returned from a moon landing and was framed in their home.

Mrs. McDevitt is survived by her children Margaret (Alex Torres), Teresa (Eugene Sheehan), John T. (Anna Grassini), Mike (Angela Lynn Lawson), Thomas Kevin (Berenice Donald) and Mary (Charlie Gofen); and grandchildren David, Joseph and Samuel Torres; Connor Sheehan and Alex Sheehan; and Eric and Peter Gofen. She was the sister of the late Eileen Donohue, Mary Buckley and Jack, Gerald, Emmet and Tom Harrison.

A funeral mass at Villa Siena Chapel and burial at Gate of Heaven Cemetery were held earlier this week. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial contributions be made to Villa Siena Foundation (

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