Overview of Rita Jolly
Rediscovering Rita Jolly: A Glimpse into the Life of a Creative Soul Lost Too Soon
Born in December 1955, Rita Lorraine Jolly was the youngest child of Donald and Mary Elizabeth Jolly. Growing up in West Linn, Oregon with her two brothers and sister, Jill Elaine, she developed a love for nature, animals, and creativity. Rita enjoyed spending her time after school immersed in books, writing poetry, and creating art.
When Rita was about 13, her parents gifted her a gelding quarter horse named Sugar, who became her constant companion. Together, they explored the countryside, visiting friends and discovering new places. Before graduating high school, Rita sold Sugar to a local stable, feeling assured he was in good hands.
Writing and artwork were Rita's true passions. Her sister, Jill Elaine, revealed to Uncovered that Rita's talent was evident in the folders filled with her writings, which provide intimate glimpses into her life and emotions.
"She had a real talent. I have folders filled with her writings. I am ashamed to admit that it's very difficult for me to go through these writings. They are such intimate windows into her life, and often the anguish in them bleeds through. I feel a responsibility to preserve these writings. I have a good flatbed scanner now, and hope to be able to focus on making digital copies so that I may more easily share them."
The Jolly family valued education and critical thinking, fostering an environment where their children were encouraged to understand complex issues and make independent decisions. Both Donald and Mary Elizabeth were survivors of the Great Depression and World War II, leading them to be frugal and liberal for their time. The couple met at the University of Minnesota Law School and later opened a law office together, where Donald worked as an attorney and Mary Elizabeth as his legal secretary.
Growing up, Rita struggled with emotional regulation and sensitivity, which led her parents to seek help from a child psychologist. Her sister, Jill Elaine, now believes Rita may have been on the autism spectrum, a concept not widely understood in the 1960s.
In her junior year of high school, Rita was reprimanded for writing a derogatory statement on the school wall. Disillusioned by cliques and peer pressure, she faced bullying for being different. Her parents defended her, challenging the school to improve its culture.
As a senior, Rita attended full-time classes at Clackamas Community College through a special program for scholastically-advanced high school seniors. Excelling in Creative Writing and art programs, Rita thrived in this environment. Though she did not attend classes at West Linn High School during her senior year, she insisted on participating in the graduation ceremony in June 1973.
A few weeks later, Rita took a walk but never came home.
On June 29, 1973, at around 7:15 pm, Rita decided to take a walk—something that was normal for her. She did not take any money, clothes, or personal items when she left her home, but she left with a smile on her face. This smile would be the last smile Rita gave her parents because she did not return home.
It was reported that Rita was last seen in the Robinwood area and/or on Sunset Ave around 8:30 to 9:00 pm. She was also seen on a main street of Oregon City near the Oregon City Arch bridge at 9:30 pm.
The following night, two young men reported to the police that they tried to pick up a girl who looked like Rita, but this young lady was not her. Unfortunately, these men did not leave their names and law enforcement was not able to follow up with them to gather more information.
The ensuing years have been hard on the Jolly family. They have been left with so many questions. Jill Elaine shared the following with Uncovered
"...the truth is that we really don't know what happened to her. We all have theories. Our dad thought she had called several times, mostly just silence on the phone but once he said that he heard her voice, "Mom? Mom?", then "Dad?", then a click on the phone hanging up. Could she have gotten involved in a cult or some other situation where it was hard to leave?
I find myself wondering how folks can help with solving the mystery of what happened to Rita. After 50 years, I don't think it's likely that we will have answers before all of us who knew her are gone from this earth. The advent of DNA gave us so much hope! But the number of unidentified bodies and the expense & difficulty of the tests has been discouraging. It's not a quick fix. Nonetheless, perhaps someday she will be one of the humans who are 'given their name back'."
Foul play is suspected in Rita’s case. There are five possible suspects that have been identified. Rita would be missing for 50 years on June 29th, 2023. Her family is still waiting for answers.
If you know anything about the disappearance of Rita Jolly, please contact Detective James White at (503) 785-5000 or Detective Eric Lee at (503) 785-5140 at the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office.