At a Kansas City area fan New Year's Eve party, longtime Burroughs fan
John Vaughan gave me the sad news that Rita (Marguerite) Coriell, a member
of First Fandom and one of the original founding members (1971) of the
City Science Fiction & Fantasy Society (KaCSFFS) died peacefully
on June 13, 2005, at her Kansas City home. She was 90. (John just recently
found out about her passing.) She was a colorectal cancer survivor of almost
twenty-five years and the survivor of one of the very early (and difficult)
hip replacement procedures that never completely restored her full mobility.
But nothing ever got Rita down.
To the end, Rita's mind was sharp as a tack. I last spoke to her in
the early spring of '05. She was the very same Rita I knew well back in
the 1970s -- just older. She didn't get out of the house much due to her
advanced age, living a quiet life alone in her family's longtime Brookside
area home. She told me she liked it that way -- but she always loved to
hear from old friends and family. She and her late ex-husband Vern, the
founder of and patriarch of Edgar Rice Burroughs fandom and the Burroughs
Bibliophiles, were married in the mid-60s but divorced in 1979. (Vern Coriell
died in January of 1987.) Rita never had any children.
As a pre-teen in the 1920s, she began reading Weird Tales, eventually
winding up with a complete collection of that very famous pulp. At some
time later in her life, she had all those issues specially hardbound in
multiple volumes. Those volumes sat on multiple bookshelves in her den
along with her premiere Arkham House books collection. On her enclosed
front porch was a beautiful collection of original Maxfield Parrish art
prints. They were always the first things that greeted you when you came
over for a visit.
I had the pleasure, back in the '70s, of carefully perusing those magnificent
old pulps and Arkhams. Rita loved to share her treasured collection with
friends. I was even able to read, cover-to-cover, a duplicate copy of the
very first issue of Weird Tales, something I still cherish to this
day. I did this over years and a number of visits to "The House of Greystoke,"
as her and Vern's home was known back then. (And what a collector's wonderland
their house was!) Rita was the Secretary-Treasurer of the Burroughs Bibliophiles
during that era. And if the truth be told, she was the main force (behind
the scenes) that kept this national fan group on track and operating.
In 1996, at age 81, during the KaCSFFS 25th Anniversary year, Rita made
a reappearance, coming to several club meetings. She also attended our
big 25th Anniversary celebration dinner and program. As part of the programming
that followed the banquet, I made sure to show a number of slides in which
she was prominent. She and Vern were always fixtures at our early meetings
and both were big supporters of KaCSFFS and ultimately KC's bid for the
Worldcon. (The Burroughs Dum-Dum
at that Worldcon was particularly good.) She and fellow First Fandom member
Jim Tibbetts were two of our special guests for the KaCSFFS 25th celebration.
It was an honor to have them both with us.
Rita was always a sweetie and a great person to be around. Years could
go by and as soon as you spoke to her it was like no time at all had elapsed.
Time meant nothing. She loved fans even though, as a bunch, they could
be a bit odd at times. She always could tell great stories about fans and
pros, sometimes not at all flattering, but always true. Yet her affection
for them shown through in the telling.
KaCSFFS certainly wouldn't be here today if First Fandom members like
Rita hadn't created fandom so many decades ago. Their numbers continue
to dwindle, but First Fandom's lasting impact on all of us remains. I'm
so happy that Rita was one of us. I wish more of you could've met and known
her. So long, Rita. And thanks.
Kansas City Science
Fiction & Fantasy Society