BUFI Remembers Founding Board Member Rita Wilson

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Rita Wilson

Known for her dedication and professionalism, Rita Wilson—one of the four, original founding members of the Black United Fund of Illinois (BUFI)—has made her transition.

“On behalf of the Black United Fund of Illinois (BUFI) it is with great sadness that we have learned of the passing of former board member Rita Wilson. We send our condolences to Rita Wilson’s family and the many civic and social organizations at this difficult time,” shares Carolyn Day, Executive Director of BUFI.

Day went on to say, “The work of BUFI stands as a testament to the power and proof of a woman making a difference. I was fortunate to have worked with Rita on social/civic activities in Chicago and the planning of the BUFI Radiothons. She always retained a climate of fairness, while sustaining economic vitality. I will remember her foresight, hard work and compassion.”

Wilson’s hard work and compassion with BUFI began in 1972 with fellow founding members Henry English, Rosetta Daylie and BUFI chair-emeritus Professor Robert T. Starks. Their fight to save the then-South Shore Country Club, turned into their efforts to launch BUFI.

Starks explains, “Rita, Rose Daylie, and I were the first people to work with Henry English as founding members and board members. Rita was our first secretary. She was one of our most dedicated and professional board members. As a federal employee, she gainfully solicited payroll deductions from her fellow workers. Rose Daylie was soliciting deductions from union members, and I worked on getting deductions from university employees.

“Rita played an instrumental role in that as secretary and the moral compass for all of us male radicals, including Bernard Williams. After we were able to accomplish city ownership of the park, we began annual summer Jazz concerts [that] featured the biggest and best names in the business. Rita served as our secretary and treasurer for these summer concerts.

“Frankly, I do not think that Henry would have been successful in all these ventures without the professionalism and dedication of Rita Wilson. She was one of my dear friends and fellow fighters for Black progress. I join with all the members of the Board in mourning her passing. She will be deeply missed.”

Bernard Williams, a founding Board member, says that Wilson joined BUFI as the first senior female Board member, and fondly remembers, “She knew how to handle BUFI’s ‘good ole boys’ culture. Rita would go toe-to-toe with Henry English. She was feminine and could stand up to you and hold her ground. She was the conscience of BUFI and scrutinized all the finances.”

He went on to say that Wilson was instrumental in fundraising, public relations and leading Chicago civic groups and that she and her sister, Natalie Puryear, were highly revered.

Wilson chaired and served on several committees within BUFI, including “Passing the Torch,” stated Rosetta Daylie, a founding board member.

“She was a hard worker committed to making BUFI a place where the community could come for assistance for jobs for our youth and small businesses getting started, etc. I will always remember Rita as a committed loyal board member who made BUFI one of her priorities. Job well done!! RIP Rita.”

Wilson was a member of the Theta Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and a member of the Lake Shore (IL) chapter of The LINKS, Incorporated.

Admired for her passion for civic work, Wilson “walked softly and carried a big stick,” says Carrie Davis. “I will always be grateful to her for helping me to organize our Lake Shore Links Chapter. Rita supported me in all my endeavors. She wanted to make a difference and she did. Rita touched the hearts and souls of those who were blessed to know her.”

Arrangements are being handled by Cage Memorial Chapel, 7651 S. Jeffrey Blvd. Visitation will be on Friday, Aug. 7 from 3-7 p.m.; Pre-Past Breakfast on Saturday, Aug. 8 from 9-10 a.m.; Wake, 10-11 a.m.; and Funeral, 11 a.m.-Noon. Due to COVID-19, there is a limit of 50 attendees at the Chapel. The Funeral service will be streamed live at 11am on the Cage Memorial Chapel Facebook page.

“Rita was dedicated and committed to various boards, organizations and committees she served. Always stylish, I will miss my dear friend’s smile and conversations,” shares Diane Dinkins-Carr, BUFI Board member.

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