By Annie Kinnett Nichols
Ria Pell was laid to rest Saturday at Westview Cemetery, and the funeral was as big as the Atlanta icon’s spirit and generosity. There were more than 1,000 in attendance and it was an amazing sight to behold.
The car procession started at Ria’s Bluebird Café on Memorial Drive, where cars and hot rods were lined two-deep down Cherokee Avenue for the funeral procession. We drove to the end and got in line. Then, like others, we got out of the car to hug, talk and tell stories about Ria. She would have been thrilled to see so many out on a cold, crisp sunny morning.
At the Westview mausoleum, the memorial service began with a reading of Dr. Seuss’ One Fish, Two Fish, followed by words from friends and Ria’s wife, Kiki Carr, and ended with Buck Owens’ “Tiger by the Tail.” As we all sang, cried and laughed it felt like Ria was there – wanting more jokes than tears.
In classic New Orleans style, there was second line parade to Ria’s grave site led by a brass band. This parade was massive. It was a beautiful serpentine of all kinds of people – some dressed in drag, some in all black, some in overalls like the ones Ria sported daily. I was blown away that so many people were there.
Ria touched thousands of lives and hundreds were able to make it to her funeral. People donated frequent flyer miles and money so all of her family could be there, including her daughter, Amanda, who Ria had recently reconnected with. In Ria’s obituary it stated “Amanda now has over 400 new moms who will be available for tall tales, embarrassing stories, and full-on love and support.”
Ria championed all kinds of people; she was a big giver of time, money and support for the LGBT community. There is a huge magnificent angelbuddhachefpunkblues spirit out in the universe now unleashing untold goods and laughter and support.
We will all miss you, Ria.
There will be a celebration of Ria’s life on Friday, Dec 13, at Variety Playhouse in Little Five Points. Details soon.