‘The MVP’: Padgett commended for her service to city and country

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Rita Padgett served in the U.S. Air Force Reserve and later worked 28 years with the City of Greenfield’s street department and cemetery. She passed away Saturday, May 27 at the age of 68.

GREENFIELD — When Greenfield mayor Chuck Fewell addressed a crowd gathered May 29 for a Memorial Day service at Park Cemetery, he first paid tribute to a local veteran and longtime city employee who had passed away earlier that weekend.

Rita Padgett served 28 years as administrative assistant to the city’s street department and Park Cemetery, where Monday’s ceremony was held.

She had been on medical leave since November with a prolonged illness, and died Saturday, May 27 at the age of 68.

“She’s been missed since November and will always be missed,” said Greenfield’s street commissioner, Tyler Rankins, who had worked with Padgett since he started leading the department nearly nine years ago.

“Rita was the best. We’ve got four people doing her job right now,” said Rankins, who commended Padgett’s work ethic and devotion to her job.

“She was really the MVP. She made me a successful department head when I first came along just because she knew what she was doing. I could ask her for something from five years back and she’d have it in 30 seconds,” he said.

Fewell commended Padgett’s devotion to the running of Park Cemetery.

“She was very important to the operation of the cemetery. Not much happened here without her taking part in it or doing it,” said Fewell, who gave Padgett credit for facilitating the American flag display at the cemetery’s entrance each Memorial Day weekend.

“She had knowledge of all sorts of things and numerous duties, and she always did an excellent job, so I wanted to recognize her today,” he said Monday.

Fewell then paid tribute to Padgett’s military service. The Anderson woman was a veteran of the U.S. Air Force Reserve, serving with the 434th and the 72nd at Grissom Air Force Reserve Base.

Padgett was later a member of Special Ramp Services Corp., also known as Ramp Rats, which she served as secretary/treasurer.

The nonprofit organization is dedicated to the safe ground operations of aircraft during air shows, fly-ins and static displays, a passion Padgett shared with her late husband.

She met Ronald Lee Padgett, “the love of her life,” while the two were working at an airshow with the Confederate Air Force. They married shortly thereafter in 1992.

The couple lived in Carmel for a short time before moving to Greenfield, then settling in Anderson, but it was in Greenfield where she spent the bulk of her career.

“She did so much for the city that nobody can ever understand,” said Rankins. “She really was important to this city and to me and everyone who knew her. She’s definitely one of a kind.”