The death has been announced of Rita Lewis Clark, Belize’s first ever Queen of the Bay (1946). Rita passed away on Friday in New York, at age 91.
Rita Lewis became Belize’s Queen of the Bay, amid popular rejoicing, the first in a long line of queens, and was crowned on the morning of September 10, 1946 in Belize City. Her patriotic lineage forms an unbroken line that continues to this day.
“Rita Lewis set the standard for all future Queens who would earn the crown”, recalls Pageant coordinator, Emma Boiton. “Rita not only reigned with grace and dignity as Queen of the Bay. She lived her life in the same manner.
“Rita remained active well into the twilight of her life and she was always a wonderful ambassador for the Queen of the Bay Pageant. She will be missed.”
Belize National Hero, the late Philip Goldson once wrote: “Statuesque Rita Lewis, whose radiant beauty, stately bearing and queenly dignity set the style, form and standard for her successors.”
The Queen of the Bay pageant was created by the Loyal and Patriotic Order of the Bay (L&POB) after a Guatemalan naval vessel was sighted in the waters off Belize City in 1946.
To promote loyalty and patriotism at a time when Guatemala was stepping up her unfounded claim to Belize, the Loyal and Patriotic Order of the Baymen saw the Queen of the Bay Pageant as a way to declare unequivocally before all the sovereignty of Belize.
The Queen of the Bay stands as an emblem of Belize’s freedom and independence. The crowning of each Queen takes place on the morning of September 10 in recognition of Belize’s ancestors, the Baymen, who bravely and successfully fought to defend the territory at the Battle of St. George’s Caye.
Rita Lewis was the eldest daughter of the late Hildebrand Lewis and his wife. She, her brothers and sisters grew up on King Street almost in front of what is now Dit’s Restaurant. After winning the title of Queen of the Bay Rita married Dr. Clark, one of Belize’s most eligible bachelors at the time, and left with him when it was his time to move on. But Rita never forgot her roots and became a true symbol for Belize and an informal ambassador of goodwill.
A memorial service for the late Rita Lewis Clark will be held in New York on Friday, April 8.
Funeral services are scheduled for Tuesday, April 12, at Wesley Methodist Church in Belize City. All former Queens of the Bay, living in Belize at this time and committee members are expected to attend the funeral.
The first Queen of the Bay pageant was held in 1946 when Ms. Rita Lewis won the coveted title of Belize's first “Queen of the Bay”. In those days, pageants were exclusive to Belize City and contestants were expected to adhere to strict criteria laid out by a pageant committee. Prerequisites for competing, all still enforced today, are young women who are: unmarried, have no common-law relations, never had children and a born Belizean or one whose parents who are originally from Belize. In those days, the prevailing factors that would determine a winner were simply: the best curtsey and the best march. The winner, not only gained respect, but her name would instantaneously be included as a guest of honor on all "important" guest lists for balls, banquets and major events.