Rhea K. Hale
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Rhea K. Hale

Richmond, VA - Rhea K. Hale, 49, of Richmond, Virginia, passed away April 27, 2020 following a brief illness.

Daughter of Margaret M. (née Lavelle) and Donald P. Hale, she was born in Binghamton, NY. She is predeceased by her grandparents, Margaret (née Murray) and Martin Lavelle and Olwen (née Coleman) and Wilbur B. Hale, Sr., of Scranton, Pennsylvania; aunt and uncle Joanne and Wilbur B. Hale, Jr.; uncle John E. Hale; aunt Nancy A. Swiencki; and godmother Ann Casey. She is survived by her parents and her sister, Mara Hale of Ridgewood, NJ, much-loved aunts, uncles and cousins, and many dear friends made in every place she lived and worked.

Rhea was Director of Public Policy in the Sustainability team at WestRock, a leading paper and packaging company. A recognized authority on issues related to public policy and sustainability, she spoke regularly at national conferences and events. She was a respected voice for her company and the industry in a number of external organizations including the American Forest & Paper Association, the Association of Plastics Recyclers, the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, the Foodservice Packaging Institute and The Recycling Partnership.

Salutatorian of Windsor High School class of 1988, Rhea studied finance and graduated with honors from Boston College in 1992 where she was a member of the Honors Program. She studied in London her junior year, working as a policy intern for the UK Liberal Democratic party. Rhea spent several years in banking and then went on to obtain a Master's degree in Environmental Management, Resource Economics and Policy from Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment in 1999.

She joined IBM during her degree program, working in the area of design for environment and recycling in IBM's Engineering Center for Environmentally Conscious Products. Her career in sustainability and environmental policy progressed with roles at the Environmental Protection Agency which she represented at UN Climate Change Conferences in Europe and Asia, and the American Forest and Paper Association prior to joining WestRock in 2011.

Rhea had a talent for seeing possibilities, and the vision and persistence to bring them to life. She was known for this in her industry, and the same was true at home. Among her greatest joys was Farmer's Rest, the 1835 home and property she restored over the last decade with the generous guidance of the local historical society. An interest in wine grew into a small vineyard on the property, where she spent countless hours working with her neighbor and hobby/business partner, Randolph Aigner, becoming viticulture experts in a challenging climate to produce the Mourvèdre grapes for Stinson Vineyards' rosé.

She looked to apply this talent to benefit her community in joining Lead Virginia, a program for senior level professionals to develop a deeper understanding of the issues and opportunities facing Virginia in the areas of economy, education and health with a view to supporting the advancement of her adopted state.

Her time in the UK during college fostered a love of travel, both for work and pleasure. Her trips to Colorado and New Mexico last summer with friends, to Costa Rica, France, Italy and Ireland with her sister, and to Machu Picchu, Bali, Poland and Denmark are among the varied places and experiences she so appreciated.

A constant reader, Rhea enjoyed theater and the arts, furniture and pottery in particular. And of course, it is impossible to talk about her without mentioning the rescue pets to whom she was so devoted: her late hound, Mack, and adored cat, Sweet Pea.

Rhea's colleagues and friends knew her as determined in a low-key way, curious, a deep thinker, passionate in her work, principled and consistent regardless of changes in work roles from representative to competitor to partner over her career, impactful, modest, kind, funny with an often-pointed wit, unfailingly available to help in time of need, and a pleasure to be around. As one said, "If you walked into a room and Rhea was there, everything was better."

Celebrations of her life will be held in Windsor, NY and at her home in Virginia. In lieu of flowers, please plant a tree or donate in her memory to the Broome County Humane Society and the LUNGevity Foundation. The family is grateful to her healthcare teams at VCU and Duke University Medical Centers and to Hospice of Virginia, with special thanks owed to the many skilled and compassionate nurses who cared for her.




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Published in Press & Sun-Bulletin from Apr. 28 to May 3, 2020.
MEMORIES & CONDOLENCES
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41 entries
May 16, 2020
Rhea was my favorite classmate at Boston College. It always felt special to be blessed with her warmth and laughter. I've never met a more genuine person. I feel blessed to have known her. Her place in my heart will never be replaced and never forgotten.
Matt Taylor
Classmate
May 11, 2020
Dear Hale Family, and all of Rhea's friends,
As you know, Rhea was the most remarkable woman. Her soft smile, her determination, her amazing ability to see promise in the greatest challenges (Mack!, 5th Street, Savannah, and her house in Virginia)--all are never too far from my thoughts. We had lost touch during the past years, as I moved far away and she dove in to her projects at Farmer's Rest, but my memories of our times in DC and hiking the Inca Trail are still as fresh as though they were yesterday. I am keeping you in my thoughts, and will celebrate Rhea's life and the many gifts she shared with me in the months and years to come.
Sara Gregg
Neighbor
May 9, 2020
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Jane Shear
May 9, 2020
Rhea was a remarkable person that I am lucky to have counted as a friend. She was a kind, intelligent, adventurous woman who never shied away from a new project or travel adventure. She put her passion for making the world a better place into her job, her home renovations and projects, and her commitment to friendship and family, and we are all the better for it. She will be dearly missed. My heart goes out to her family for your loss.
Mary Jacques
Friend
May 8, 2020
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Timothy Chizak
May 6, 2020
Over 40 years ago, I had the pleasure of being Rhea's second grade teacher. She was an excellent student who was extremely dependable, creative, and smart. Her second grade class was enhanced by Rhea's wit and kindness. Anyone who knew Rhea has to be deeply sadden knowing that she is no longer here to make this world a better and happier place. Our memories can help; I smile when I recall the fun and learning we had in that delightful second grade class. Losing Rhea at such a young age is a reminder to not wait until someone is gone to tell them how wonderful they are.
Ann Wasko
May 6, 2020
I am so sad to hear of the loss of Rhea. I had the pleasure of meeting Rhea a few years ago on a project at WestRock. She was such a wonderful person and will be missed greatly.
Scott Field
Coworker
May 5, 2020
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Sandrine Comola
May 5, 2020
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Emma Rondele
May 5, 2020
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Amanda Baccarini
May 4, 2020
Rhea will never be forgotten for her remarkable spirit, her contagious smile and her intellect. She made a positive impression on everyone she met and all of us who knew and loved her are better people for having known her.
Suzette Truesdell
Friend
May 4, 2020
I havent seen Rhea for some time but she made an impression on me when we first met. She had a great grasp on the packaging industry and environmental impact. Someone you wanted on your team. My thoughts and prayers to her family.
Greg Archambault
Coworker
May 3, 2020
I was one of Rhea's colleagues in Washington State where we would tackle a variety of environmental programs in our attempts to both meet our obligations while at the same time trying to keep our business alive. I didn't know Rhea well but over the years of working with her, I grew to really enjoy having her in my corner. Yes, she was soft-spoken but when she spoke, she always added the perspective that was needed at the time. I will miss her.
Karl Schumacher
Coworker
May 3, 2020
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Kathleen Chizak
May 3, 2020
So sorry for the loss of a beloved daughter. God bless your family.
Susan Pacenza
Friend
May 2, 2020
In memories of the friendly collaboration with Rhea within the International Council of Forest and Paper Associations. I will keep her competence and friendship in my heart.
Bernard Galembert
Coworker
May 1, 2020
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wendi lester
May 1, 2020
Don, Margaret and Mara, I am very sad to read about Rhea. I have never met parents more proud of their daughters. My familys thoughts and prayers to you. I cannot imagine the pain of losing so young!
Bruce OBrien
Acquaintance
May 1, 2020
I am saddened to hear of Rhea's passing. Mara thank you for posting on Linkedin. I was a classmate of Rhea's at Duke and we stayed in touch due to our work in the forest products industry. I will keep your family in my prayers during this sorrowful time.
Julia Grant
Classmate
May 1, 2020
Sending my deepest condolences. Rhea and I knew each other professionally and I had the utmost respect for her. Our respective organizations didn't always see things in the same light but what I admired about Rhea is she would take the time to hear you out, inquire further and then respectfully share her insights. She refused in polarization and could successfully stand up for what she believed in without isolating anyone. I genuinely cherished the opportunity to discuss challenges with her. I know I speak for many other colleagues when I say losing her is a deep loss for the industry.
Kyla Fisher
Coworker
May 1, 2020
Sending my deepest condolences. I had the pleasure of working w Rhea at WestRock and she was indeed a Rockstar , who made our company, our industry and by way of that, the whole world a better place. She pushed us all to think differently - and was a true pleasure to work with. She will be deeply missed.
Pete Durette
Coworker
May 1, 2020
I was very saddened to hear the news of Rhea's passing. She was a model student - so sweet, gentle, kind, and focused. Thinking of you - Don, Margaret and Mara, with healing prayers.
Lynn Szigeti
Teacher
May 1, 2020
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Henry Loomis
May 1, 2020
I was heartbroken when I heard this news. My deepest condolences to Rhea's family and friends. I had the privilege of knowing Rhea through WestRock and a mentoring relationship we developed. I loved hearing about her historic home and the vineyard and her accomplishments. Rhea made our universe a better place through her work, she will be sorely missed.
Holly McGinnis
Coworker
May 1, 2020
I appreciated Rhea for her passion and knowledge in sustainability and public policy in our industry. I will sorely miss her energy and experience. My sincerest condolences to Rhea's family and friends.
Larry Kruger
Coworker
May 1, 2020
I am in grief after hearing the loss of a coveted co-worker with whom I worked with for many years. Rhea was amazing to work with, talented and always ready to help. May God bless the departed soul and provide strength and courage to the family on this untimely loss.
Rahul Bhardwaj
Coworker
May 1, 2020
Rhea was an essential part of our Durham Family of friends when we lived there. We met her walking our dogs and Toby and Mack were the best of buds. She has stayed in our hearts and we cherished the time she visited us in Prague and the time we were able to enjoy the young vineyard and historic house she dedicated herself to in the last years. Such sad news and we send condolences to Mara, her parents, and all her friends who I know miss her as much as we do.
Laura
Friend
May 1, 2020
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Joel Forbes
May 1, 2020
I am so sorry to hear about Rheas departure of this world Mara. I know you as a wonderful person and can only imagine how as wonderful your sister was. Please accept our sincere condolences to you and your family Mara. Do reach out if you need to talk or visit us in England. We shall pray for you and her and for all of your family. Eric, Michele, Aaron, Sophie and Marc.
Eric Giroux
Friend
April 30, 2020
I am so sorry for the loss of you beautiful sister, Mara!
Rochelle Cherrone
Friend
April 30, 2020
I am so sorry to hear of this. She really was a very nice person. This is too young, but only God has the answers. My sincere condolences.
Jason Griffin
Classmate
April 30, 2020
No one who ever knew Rhea would forget her. Her contagious smile and spirit will live on in the hearts and memories of her friends and everyone she touched.
Suzette Truesdell
Friend
April 30, 2020
Mr., Mrs. Hale and Mara, Sending my sincere condolences as an old friend of Rheas from Windsor. Rhea and I were friends when we were little and enjoyed sitting with the cheerleaders at the football and basketball games and we loved going to the pool in the summers. I remember Rhea as a beautiful kind friend and I am glad I was able to see her at class reunions. She had a beautiful smile and confidence. She leaves a beautiful legacy and a reminder to us all the importance of caring for our environment. I am truly sad and so sorry for your loss of beautiful Rhea. Sincerely, Emmalie Mahar Velte
Friend
April 30, 2020
I was very fortunate to get to work with Rhea over the past 6 months. I loved when she was in the room there was a sense of calm and it was all ok since Rhea was there. She is passionate, confident and a real team player. I have enjoyed every second working with her and have learned so much. My deepest condolences to her family. We are heart broken and sending you healing thoughts & prayers.
Sarah Trickey
Coworker
April 30, 2020
My heartfelt condolences to Rheas loved ones. I am sure she will be missed.
Christian Fischer
Acquaintance
April 30, 2020
Our heartfelt condolences to the family. May Almighty give courage to the family to face this loss. God bless her soul.
charanjit wadehra
Acquaintance
April 30, 2020
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Joseph Scarpa
April 30, 2020
So very sorry to hear. God bless her soul.
Our condolences to the whole family
Shashi Taxali
April 30, 2020
I so loved listening to her talk about fixing up her historic home and start her vineyard.
Cindy Watts
April 30, 2020
I am so sad to hear of Rhea's passing. Rhea was an amazing lady. Smart, helpful, caring and a fount of knowledge. She had a tremendous impact on the world around her shaping policy and moving industries forward in the sustainability journey, and that legacy will live on. I am lighting this candle in celebration of Rhea's life and praying for comfort for her family.
Susan Miles
April 29, 2020
I enjoyed the time we spent working together in the IBM Engineering Center for Environmentally Conscious Products located at the Research Triangle Park, NC. She was smart, excited about our work, a great contributor, & fun to work with. She was one of the bravest & most committed persons I ever worked with in establishing programs to protect our environment. I was richly blessed in knowing her & will always remember her & her contributions! My condolences & prayer for comfort go to her family during this time!
Dewey Pitts
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