Marie Kay Rich

Local champion of animals, former Mount Dora City Council member and real estate businesswoman Marie Kay Rich died July 15 in a vehicle crash. She was 61.

Many community members shared memories and tributes to Rich, and a few excerpts are shown below.

Valerie Foerst: “Marie was a champion for the underdog, no pun intended. People loved her vibrant personality, passion for animals and willingness to help when needed. Her legacy will live on. This shining, energetic force of nature will be missed more than she would ever know.”

Mary Conrad: “I had the privilege to know Marie for 30 years. She was positive, loving, kind and passionate for as long as I can remember. No matter what she went through personally, she always had time for others. I will miss Marie Rich; she was a bright light that could always be counted on, always willing to lend a helping hand or a hug for support.”

Jodie McEwen: “Such a vibrant, confidant, loving, funny and fearless woman. I have been thinking a lot over the last week about what leaving a legacy means. It means when people think of you, they know what you stood for in this life. You leave this world a better place.”

Valeria Harris: “It is an honor to remember a beautiful person. Marie and I met when I opened my nail business in 2005. We became friends forever, we had dinners together, we took care of cats together, took rides in her hippy bus. Marie, I miss you so much!”

Eustis City Commissioner and president of LEASH, inc. Karen LeHeup-Smith: “I was honored to be included in the hippie bus ride that went through Mount Dora and Tavares and back. Horn honking and waving – it wasn’t a quiet event! The Rich Critter Foundation made a difference in the medical outcome of many animals. Unfailingly she always responded to my query – ‘whatever you need.’ It was a daunting response, because I knew she worked hard to provide funds for the foundation. I personally, and LEASH, inc., will miss this cheerleader for animals. I am sure her heavenly mansion is filled with dogs and cats who can’t wait to curl up next to her – if she ever sits down.”

A Celebration of Rich’s life and love of animals will be held at her home, 941 N. Grandview St. in Mount Dora, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Aug. 1. Organizers have asked that community members drive by her home during that time and place pet food donations in her 1970 Volkswagen bus, which she drove when working for her foundation.

Monetary donations may be given to The Marie Kay Rich Fund at Shipley Law Firm, 20110 US Hwy 441, Suite A, Mount Dora, FL 32757. Donations will help continue her foundation’s local programs, including feeding, spaying and neutering feral cats.