WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) - The Andover school district announced yesterday that beloved art teacher and coach Rita Frakes died after a many-year battle with cancer.

Rita Frakes was not just an award-winning art teacher.

“At one time we read that there were 300 students that could have taken her art class and 290 of them did,” said Diane Smith, best friend of Rita.

She was not just a softball coach with multiple state titles.

“She celebrated her girls like no other- I’ve never seen another coach do,” said Smith. 

She was the loving wife to Susan Jae Eckel for 19 years. 

(Rita Frakes

Her best friends say she was a genuinely good person. 

“She’s very passionate about anything she does- whether it's fishing or coaching or teaching or being with her friends- Rita is passionate,” said Smith. 

Rita was diagnosed with breast cancer back in 2017- KAKE covered her resilience back then. 

“She took it head on and she chopped the head off that snake many times,” explained Smith. 

On July 5, 2024, she died after her final battle with cancer. Her friends say she died a fighter.

“She even said to me the other day laying in bed, she said- ‘I just don’t want people to think I’m a quitter’,” said Smith. 

She taught at Andover Central High School and in Clearwater for a total of 41 years.

 

One of her former students Holt says, "Rita was not just a Teacher or a Coach. She was a friend. She showed up outside of the classroom and off the field. She was in hospital rooms, funerals, baby showers, and weddings. She often was sending words of encouragement and showing up where others wouldn’t. She gave rides when parents were ill, she stayed late to listen when they were down. She was my teacher, my coach and one of my best friends. There will never be enough words to describe her."

Another former student, Adrienne Ladd said, “She always made whoever she was talking to feel like the most important person right then and there. She had a smile that lit up the room and a laugh that I will always remember. I had her for Middle School Art in Clearwater in the 80s. Looking at all the posts on FB, many people feel the same way. From Clearwater to Andover and everywhere she was, Frakes was loved. A bright light in a crazy world. They say teachers are not in it for the income but for the outcome. That was Rita. Her legacy will be the love that 1000s of her kids/students carry with us. We all need a Frakes in our life. Go make a difference and be kind.” 

 

 

“Was she a great teacher, yes, but she had so much more of an impact on her students than being their teacher,” said Smith. 

Smith says Rita is still getting hundreds of texts, calls, and messages daily from friends and former students detailing her great impact on their lives. 

“Rita is one of those people that everybody should want to be like. Everybody should try to be a Rita Frakes because her legacy is like no other,” said Smith. 

Her legacy can also continue in the form of donations to the Kyrie Foundation, Victory in the Valley, and the LAPP Animal Rescue.