Saying Goodbye to Rumson Jersey Girl Kit Rowett White

“A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others.”  ~ L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

A lot of heart is what the Rumson girl everyone knew as Kit Rowett had. A lot of people loved her — some who even only knew her for a moment. I guess you could say that this impish-grinned, twinkly-eyed Wizard gave her heart to the Tin Man.

And, boy, did he cry. He smiled a lot, too. This Tin Man, embodied as  the many loved ones who had a piece of Kit’s heart, smiled a wide, collective, rust-proof smile on Saturday as a celebratory goodbye was bid to the Jersey girl loved and lost on Sept. 19 after a valiant battle with cancer.

No doubt there was some serious heel clicking going on when Kit’s spirit soared down that Yellow Brick Road to the home where she grew up to join everyone for an apt celebration of her life at Donovan’s Reef.

Yes, “duh,” as she might say, she loved The Wizard of Oz. I don’t know how I remember that, but I do. No, we weren’t particularly close, but I was around her a lot by default — better yet, luck.

I was a good friend of her sister Betsy’s. And from the day I met Kit, I loved her and couldn’t help but do anything but laugh — a lot. She was feisty and fun. Her spirit was infectious. Her heart was big and sincere. She was no-nonsense, but full of love and empathy. She was just plain funny. Wait. Make that fancy funny. She might just fancy that — for the fun of it. And she was a kidder whose aim it was to always laugh with you, never at you.

See, when I first met Kit, I went to the Rowett house to hang out with Betsy, my theater bud back in high school days. I knocked. She opened the door. She looked at me with a gleam in her eyes, smiled with that dimply impish grin and promptly … slammed the door in my face.

Yeah, I’ve told the story a lot in the past few weeks. It’s just that the image of her grinning at that doorway has stuck with me for decades. I can still see her face and hear her voice. She was just that kind of girl. She stuck with you.

Yeah, she did open the door again. Still grinning, she said, “Oh, are you still here? Well, what are ya standing there for? Come on in, Doogan Eddie!” (Betsy, Kit and company at the Rowett homestead called me that. Still don’t have a clue as to why.)

After the initial door slam shock, I was laughing right along with Kit on that one and many more to come. I was a goofball. But, see, even that door slam wasn’t mean. It was just Kit’s kidding. It was funny. From that point on, there was Kit-inspired laughter — a lot of it. I remembered the times. I cherished them.

Many years passed since those RFH days around this Jersey RFH sister called Kit. Betsy had passed away. I knew only well after the fact, before Facebook connections. I felt awful. There were many good times spent with and around these two Rowett girls. (Though all of them are pretty cool.)

They were never forgotten, either, just tucked away. Over the years, something or other would evoke a little Kit or Betsy flashback from time to time. It always made me smile.

So, decades later, when I posted a Retro Pic of the Day of a bunch of RFH buddies having a good time in a convertible, I smiled and exhaled a sigh of happiness when Kit wrote to me. She talked about how she cherished memories like that and how photo and little anecdotal story had brought her a bit of joy in remembering those good ole days. I had no idea she was sick. I was happy to hear from her after all these years. The comment, I told her, meant a lot to me. It did.

We friended one another, chatted and caught up right away — just like it was a yesterday of 30 or 40 years ago. Ahem. I told her I was sorry that I had no idea about Betsy being gone until it was too late. I told her how much those times meant to me. I told her she was part of that.

She said she was going to post some old pictures and was “looking forward to reminiscing with you all on fb! xxooo.” She never said a word about her illness. Not a word.

She said that in addition to those great times, she couldn’t believe how many RFH teachers we had lost in the past few years, “many, some of the best.”

She called sis Betsy “a pip” and said “I still get the urge to pick up the phone and call Bets — in some ways, I hope it never goes away.”

It won’t, Kit. Neither will the laughs, memories and love you gave so many who in the past several weeks have reached for that phone, talked to you in the saddest, loneliest, darkest hours of the night, raised a glass to you, sat on the beach at sunset and thought of you, smiled over one good time or many with you, or just remembered that you once opened a door for them like a pie in the face. Sweet.

The jury is in. Your heart has been judged. Guilty. You are the bearer of one of the biggest. It beats on in so very many. They will probably always reach … for you. Then again, you know what they say in The Wizard of Oz about not looking any further than your own back yard.

RIP, my friend. You are remembered — with a lot of heart.

— Elaine Van Develde

Take a look at how Kit Rowett White was remembered on Saturday …

Lots of love to Kit’s family … Sisters Terri and Chris, brother Ted, children Kaila and Lian and husband Perry. It was a beautiful day. She was a beautiful person whose spirit lit up the whole beach on Saturday — as usual.