Friends, community service colleagues and admirers paid tribute to Carmelita Rood, one of the most involved and well-liked people in Menifee, following news of her death Tuesday morning at age 85.
Carmelita spent nearly 35 years in community service here since she moved to Sun City with her late husband in 1978. She was a past president of the Sun City Chamber of Commerce; was a longtime member of the Sun City Woman's Club, Soroptomist International and Kiwanis Club; was a member of the National Association for Female Executives; was an active member of St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic Church; and participated in many other community activities.
In recent years, she was most known for her presence at every Menifee Valley Chamber of Commerce event, serving as official photographer and greeter of virtually every guest.
Carmelita, who had battled cancer the last few months, slipped into a coma a few days ago and passed away about 10 a.m. Tuesday at Country Villa Murrieta Health Center, where a constant stream of visitors had surrounded her beside. She received a special achievement award from the Chamber of Commerce last Thursday and was due to be honored by the Menifee City Council with a special proclamation Tuesday night.
"Carmelita is now in heaven looking down at all of us and watching out for us all," wrote Robbie Motter, one of her closest friends, in a Facebook tribute on Tuesday. "This was one beautiful woman who for 30+ years served her community and was a total friend to many.
Dorothy Wolons, CEO of the Menifee Valley Chamber of Commerce, worked closely with Carmelita at Chamber functions and was another close friend. She said Carmelita told her both her parents died at age 86 and she wanted to make it that long as well. She died six days short of her 86th birthday.
"She was my right hand and my left hand," Wolons said. "She was a voice of concern, of direction in the community.
"When when she laid in her hospital bed, she was more concerned with how everyone else was doing. Robbie and I were in awe. She kept telling us, "Take care of yourself.
"She was a landmark person -- an icon -- in this town."
Mike Castillejos, past president of the Chamber of Commerce, recalled Carmelita's outgoing nature and commitment to making every visitor to a public event feel welcome.
"At the mixers, she wouldn't let anybody stand alone," he said. "She was a friend to everyone."