“I’m known as Rita Loy.” At 80 years old, although diminutive in stature Rita Loy Simmons speaks with a dignified and kind voice. “My grandfather walked through the snow from Edgewood to get to my birth at Rohoboth Mission. During those early days you could pick me out of the class.” That’s because she was the only fair-skinned pupil among the natives, she added.
Throughout her childhood years, winter snows were deep and the roads were somewhat treacherous, making the trek to the East Mountains quite arduous. Only after the road blades were able to make them passable did the Horton family finally make the move to their Broken Trail family home under the canopy of San Pedro Mountain.
“One of Father’s earliest ventures was to become a bean farmer which didn’t fare too well,” Simmons said. It was in the early 50s during a lengthy drought when Thomas Horton teamed up with his wife Rita and built what was to become the Entranosa Water system.
Simmons said, “Both my parents were strong proponents in the development of community projects,” adding, “It was their vision and fortitude that developed the Central New Mexico Rural Electrical Cooperative system.”
Attending school in Albuquerque, Simmons graduated from Highland High in 1956.
For a number of years Simmons was a bank employee until her husband Bob Thomas got sick. “Father wanted him to get a real estate license for he was able to see what was starting to happen in the East Mountains,” she said.
Back then a real estate license would cost $5, but her husband developed an auto immune disease at 38 years old, dropped 75 pounds and never got the license.
“It was during those trying years when my back was against the wall—just being a mother and housewife whose place was in the home didn’t provide enough financial support for the family, so I went ahead and got my real estate license,” she said.
A woman as the primary breadwinner was not easily accepted during those days and after 27 years of marriage the pair divorced.
Through her Mother’s foresight and creed, “You can’t stop an idea whose time has come,” Simmons was able to hone her own skills, helping to make a productive life for herself and the three children.
On Valentine’s Day in 1977 she got that license, and for the next 42 years was able to guide buyers and sellers to stay focused on what their objective is—the property sale. “No one has to bleed over a transaction,” she explained. “Shake hands and count your fingers. No one is completely happy, but as long as they’re 80% satisfied, I know it’s a job well done.”
After becoming a successful real estate agent, Simmons came back to Edgewood and the family ranch in 1985. Five years later she met Jarrod Simmons, a West Mesa High School math teacher from Los Alamos. Having the skills for rural living Simmons was able to step right into the country lifestyle and help make their home warm and inviting.
Asked what made her so successful, Simmons said, “To be a valuable and effective realtor there are basic tenets to follow—when dealing with the largest transaction buyers and sellers will make in their lifetime, do the research, take them where they need to be, listen and help them find the solution.”
She clarified a little more profoundly, “We’re dealing at the gut level, and it’s here where people can read each other and it’s then I get to be a hero,” she said as a soft smile twinkled through her eyes.
Plenty of interests have passed through her life, but as Simmons explained, “My greatest joy is dealing with the public—running the Entranosa Water Corporation, the myriad duties running our ranch, and the 12 years I spent on the Edgewood Town Council.”
Her son recently finished his naval career as a supply officer in Virginia and in July came back to Edgewood to take over the family responsibilities. Presently, she bought and relocated to a happy home in an Albuquerque neighborhood where she’s surrounded by a number of seniors.
Asked what attributes have carried through her life, Simmons said, “I have been in the right place at the right time, to hear, say, or do the right thing. I know how that happens.” Joyfully she added, “It’s guidance, it absolutely is.” Then with a hearty laugh, “The idea finally came to me later in life and it’s made for a very rich life.”
Leota started working for The Independent in 2006, working her way up through the ranks. An employee buyout in 2010 led to her ownership of the newspaper. Leota has served on the board of the N.M. Press Association, and is currently its First Vice President. She is passionate about health and wellness, especially mental health, and loves making art. She can be reached at [email protected]