Athlete. As an outstanding athlete at York High School, Rita has often been referred to as the greatest female athlete around, whether it was cross-country, basketball, track, volleyball, or softball. During her sophomore year (1976-77) York won the first Class B Girls State Basketball Tournament and Rita tossed in the winning basket with 4 seconds remaining in overtime. This was the first of two state championships during her high school career. Her high school basketball career produced honors such as high school All-American, super state, all-state two years, all-conference two years and honorable mention all-state her sophomore year. In volleyball, she was named super state, all-state and all-conference. As a senior she was runner-up for female athlete of the year in Nebraska. Highly recruited in four sports she chose the University of Wyoming and basketball. She was the leading scorer and rebounder for the team and posted impressive stats in rebounds with 1,006, scoring with 1,578 points and steals with 151. Rita coached at Trumbull, Western Illinois University and Harvard. She moved to Lincoln in 1991 and in 1993 became the fifth female fire fighter in the city’s history.
Lincoln, Nebraska, firefighter Rita Makovicka died unexpectedly on Tuesday, February 22, 2001. The death of the active, healthy 39-year-old, who had been in excellent physical condition, has stunned and baffled her co-workers and friends. “None of it makes any sense,” co-worker Deb Lefferts told a local newspaper. “It just doesn’t seem real.”
Makovicka had been on the Lincoln Fire Department since 1993. She was named its Firefighter of the Year in 1999, had received two unit citations, and chaired the department’s minority recruitment committee. She had been planning to attend the WFS conference in Georgia the following month.
Raised in a small Nebraska town, one of thirteen children, Makovicka began playing basketball in high school and was on the Girls State Basketball Team in 1977 and 1979. Her local newspaper named her its “Female Athlete of the Century.” Six feet tall by her senior year in high school, and excelling in volleyball, basketball, track (hurdles, shot put, and long jump), and softball, she was offered Division I athletic scholarships in all four sports. She ultimately chose to attend the University of Wyoming on a basketball scholarship. She later became an assistant volleyball coach at Western Illinois University, and then a coach at Harvard High School, before becoming a firefighter.
Following her death, it was announced that Mackovicka had been chosen last October to be inducted into the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame this spring. The public announcement was made a few weeks early due to her death.
An autopsy was performed a few days after her death, with inconclusive results. A memorial service was held at the Firefighters Union Hall on February 26; Lincoln firefighters attended in full dress uniform. Her funeral was held the following day at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Mackovicka’s home town of York.