In Memory

Rhea Jane Leishman (Houck) - Class Of 1940

Rhea Jane Leishman (Houck)

Rhea Leishman Houck died on April 29, 2019, in her home of 62 years in McKinleyville, California. Rhea was born in Pittsburg, California May 13, 1923, the oldest daughter of Ross and Theda Leishman. She grew up in Southern California, playing amid her grandfather's orange groves and enjoying summer days on the water in the California Delta and Catalina. She attended college at Pomona, graduating in 1944 with a degree in Biology. She then launched a life of service, reporting to Marine boot camp 10 days after college graduation.

After the war, she earned a secondary teaching credential at Claremont Graduate School and then enrolled in graduate school at Cornell, earning a Master's degree in Biology. While in Ithaca. Rhea met her husband, Jake Houck, with whom she raised four children and shared 62 years of marriage. Rhea and Jake began their life together and their family in Georgia, but moved to Humboldt County for Jake's job at Humboldt State in 1952. After arriving in the north state, she quickly became involved in community causes. She was a member of various Parent-Teacher organizations, a committed poll worker, a founder of the McKinleyville Pony Express Days, a participant with the Human Rights Commission, a board member of the Neptune Society, and a long-time hospital volunteer. Her work with the Masonic youth group Job's Daughters, with which she served as an adult volunteer at the state and local level, enriched the lives of countless girls and women over 30 years. An early adopter of the personal computer, she quickly put it to work as a tool for family history, stamp collecting, and the publishing efforts of several non-profits.

When not engaged in service to her community, she and Jake loved to travel, with and without kids in tow. They explored South America, Asia (including two long stays in Japan), the South Pacific and Africa. They supplemented these grand adventures with trips around North America and weekend trips up and down the Pacific coast. She kept a bag packed for quick getaways at a moment's notice. 

Unafraid to pick a worthy fight, Rhea often championed the cause of equity. In 1960, she and Jake protested when Humboldt's African American football players were housed in segregated dorms for a championship game in Florida. In the 1970s, when the McKinleyville High School Girls' Basketball team was assigned to practice at the local elementary school, she would have none of it. When the high school speech team lacked the funds to travel to the state speech tournament, she night have known something about the anonymous donations sent to the speech coach.

Rhea Houck loved dogs, Christmas, and the English language used correctly. She urged her children to play outside, to write in books, to take initiative, to serve others, to explore the world. She wore combat boots, knit ponchos, recited poetry, played bridge, stretched a dollar, and corrected the grammar in mystery novels. She raised children, urged them out into the world, and welcomed them back home with open arms. She is survived by her children, Susan (Ed Chism), Robert, Emily (Helen Herd), and Judy (Lisa Saywell) and grandson, Ross (Julie Fintel), and her beloved dog, Dexter.

Eureka Times, May 12, 2019