A local legend slipped quietly into heaven during the 8:00 o'clock hour Thursday (5/30/2019) evening. Dr. Liz Rhea touched many in her 85 years of caring and helping others. Visitation will be 10:00AM Wednesday, June 5, 2019 at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church followed by a Funeral Mass at 11:00AM. Fr. Stephen Brett and Fr. John Sims Baker will officiate. Interment will be in Roselawn Memorial Gardens.
She always loved Rutherford County and was born and raised in Eagleville. Dr. Rhea was a retired radiologist and had a reputation as a community philanthropist. She loved her church, St. Rose of Lima, and had a heart that was indeed True Blue. In fact, she was a Middle Tennessee State University alumni received her undergraduate degree there in 1955. Liz continued to passionately support her alma mater throughout her life.
She then headed to medical school at UT Memphis where she was one of only two female graduates. In addition to that diploma, she also took away from the Bluff City her professor, the late Dr. Creighton Rhea (1921-2004). He was a radiology professor, and the two married.
The couple lived in Texas for many years, and while in the Lone Star State, Liz completed training in mamography at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. She joined the US Army's William Beaumont Medical Center in El Paso and stayed there until 1992 when the call to come home lured Liz and Creighton back to Rutherford County.
Murfreesboro Mayor Shane McFarland said, "Dr. Liz Rhea embodied the spirit of our City. She was tireless in her efforts to make Murfreesboro a better place to live and a better place for all of our residents. Her contributions will live on for years. She will be greatly missed."
Past Senator and Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron exclaimed, "There wasn't a truer Blue fan than Liz Rhea. From her humble beginnings in Eagleville, Tennessee, to an excellent doctor--but more recently known as the lady who when she called you, you asked 'how much did you put me down for?'--There will never be another Liz Rhea."
Senior Judge Don Ash commented, "Liz was a special soul whose life touched so many people. Through her efforts at MTSU, our local hospital, Rotary and numerous other non-profit organizations--her dream of what our community could be, was achieved. She certainly had a life well lived, but she was more concerned about the quality of life of others. I will miss my friend."
Here how the Voice of the Blue Raiders Chip Walters remembers Dr. Rhea:
A Murfreesboro Rotary friend commented, "She never gave up. We could all learn from Liz's determination to help others and to live life to the fullest, no matter what health cards were dealt to you."
Liz was a triple cancer survivor. Her first bout was was uterine cancer in 2002. It came back a year later. 2008 brought Stage IV cancer that spread to her liver and lungs. She never gave up!
Former State Representative John Hood noted, "Liz Rhea was one of a kind. She worked and supported so many wonderful causes in our community. MTSU enjoyed her tremendous loyalty and support. She will truly be missed!"
Dr. Rhea was excitedly looking toward October, when her beloved Murfreesboro Rotary Club celebrates its centennial anniversary. The Club President Melissa Cassidy told members, "It is with deep sadness that I share with you the news that our fellow Rotarian, Dr. Liz Rhea, has passed.
She was a devoted humanitarian and believed in Rotary. Her smile within our club will be missed."
The MTSU family is in mourning
We lost a truly special member of our Blue Raider family with the passing of Dr. Liz Rhea. Her passion for the University was unrivaled, as she was perhaps our biggest cheerleader and the very definition of what it means to be True Blue. Her generous spirit, in word and deed, will continue to benefit her alma mater, now and in the future.
On a personal note, my wife, Elizabeth, and I deeply mourn the passing of a truly dear friend. Selfishly, I will miss seeing Liz, dressed almost always in blue and white, on the sidelines, in the stands or with the crowd at a MTSU event. I will miss her counsel, her laughter, her intellect and her strength.
She loved MTSU, and we loved her back. It is difficult to imagine Middle Tennessee State University without Liz - her great smile, her devotion to our students, her unabashed and unceasing loyalty to her beloved Blue Raiders, and her unwavering commitment to the progress and success of her alma mater.
But we can take some comfort in knowing that she has found peace, and that she is now reunited with her beloved husband, Creighton. And I know that her memory, and her spirit, will remain an important part of our university for generations to come.
Dr. Rhea has served on numerous non-profit boards in Rutherford County, including the MTSU Foundation Board, Alumni Board and Blue Raider Athletic Association, Saint Thomas Rutherford Foundation and Saint Thomas Rutherford Ambassadors. She has also served on the boards of the ACE Learning Center, American Heart Association and United way of Rutherford and Cannon Counties. In 2011, the Saint Thomas Rutherford Foundation named her the inaugural recipient of the award honoring her - the Dr. Liz Rhea Philanthropist Award. She was also the 2017 ATHENA Award recipient and a year earlier was honored by the Heart of Tennessee Chapter of the Red Cross with their HEROES AWARD. Liz also served on the Rutherford County YMCA board and received their Humanitarian Award.
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