(NEWS ARTICLE) BOWLING GREEN -- Palma T. Rife, who was matron of the Wood County jail when her husband was sheriff and who later was director of the county juvenile detention center, died Wednesday in Bowling Green Manor nursing home, where she lived the last 18 months. She was 90.
The cause of death was not known. She had Alzheimer's disease, her son Terry said.
She succeeded her husband, the late Earl "Red" Rife, as director of the Wood County juvenile detention center when he became county clerk of courts. He later was U.S. marshal for the northern district of Ohio. She retired from that juvenile center job around 1980.
Her husband was elected sheriff in 1960, the first of what would become three four-year terms. The jail was next to the county courthouse and doubled as the sheriff's residence. The Rife family lived there.
"There was a nice heavy door between us and the jail," their son said. "My bedroom was up against the jail on the second floor."
She was the jail matron but also its cook. She prepared breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the inmates. Some days, she had 40 mouths to feed.
"The family would all kick in to help periodically, but for the most part she did it all," her son said.
The inmates helped clean the heavy metal plates -- nothing then was throwaway -- but she scrubbed the pots and pans. More than one inmate returned later to visit her and reminisce about her chicken soup, her son said.
The deputies were men, so when a woman was brought to jail, Mrs. Rife might have to search her and, once she was in a cell, would take her a meal.
She was a support to her husband as he campaigned -- by his side around the county to chicken-and-biscuit meet-and-greet events -- and on the job. She also got to accompany him to national sheriffs' conferences in such locations as Hawaii.
In retirement, the couple delivered meals to the homebound, mostly in Bowling Green, and were honored for this service on their 65th wedding anniversary by the Wood County Committee on Aging.
"They enjoyed being together and being with family," their son said. "She was an extremely friendly, outgoing person. People enjoyed being around her."
She liked cars and once owned a "slinky-bodied, long, two-door Lincoln," her son said. Her favorite was her 1971 Mustang Mach 1, white with black stripes.
"It was a machine," her son said. Her husband gave her a riot helmet with "Palma" inscribed across the top.
"She just wanted a little hot rod to run around town in," her son said.
She was born July 1, 1921, to Hattie and Emil Kiel and grew up in South Toledo. She was a graduate of Libbey High School.
She and her husband married Nov. 14, 1940. He died April 20, 2011.
Surviving are her sons, Terry and Alan; daughter, Diane Goebel; six grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.
Services will be at 1 p.m. today in the Marsh Funeral Home, Luckey, where visitation will begin at 11 a.m.
The family suggests tributes to Grace Lutheran Church, Luckey; the Wood County Committee on Aging; Wheeled Meals in care of Wood County Hospital, or the
Contact Mark Zaborney at: email@example.com or 419-724-6182.
Published in Toledo Blade on May 19, 2012