Rita LaBore, a longtime school nurse at Robbinsdale Area Schools, had a soft spot for children.

In her 23 years as a school nurse, the former educator demonstrated calmness even in hectic situations. She called everyone "Sweetie" or "Dear Heart." She was a confidante to many, including her own children.

"She made people feel valued," said her daughter, Jeannine Knoer. "She was the type of person who you could tell any secret and still feel loved and accepted."

LaBore, who was remembered by friends and family as sophisticated and glamorous, died Feb. 16 of throat cancer. She was 79.

She grew up in Mankato and graduated from high school there. She was the only child of Henry Mayer, a businessman, and Josephine Mayer, who graduated as a nurse in the days when it was unconventional for women to earn degrees.

LaBore majored in nursing at St. Teresa College in Winona, where she met her husband, Lee LaBore, who was attending a neighboring campus known as St. Mary's at the time. They got married in 1966 and had four children. They later moved to Hopkins and he worked as a trial lawyer. In 1988, their relationship crumbled, and LaBore, a devoted Catholic, remained single.

She believed in family and tradition but was also a staunch advocate of women's rights, said Knoer. "It was an interesting mix," she said. "She was proud to be a woman, and she was very feminine. But yet she was vigorous in her efforts that women could accomplish everything."

She went back to school and received her master's in public health from the University of Minnesota in 1978. Shortly after, she taught nursing there before beginning a career with Robbinsdale Area Schools as the school nurse.

Jean Johnson, who was a school librarian for the district during the same time, said the two remained friends even after they no longer worked together. LaBore was concerned about the well-being of students.

"She just exhibited pleasure in what she was doing," Johnson said. "She was competent, caring and calm with her students whether it was small emergencies and greater emergencies."

LaBore's friends often called her with their own medical questions.

"She was our resource," said longtime friend Kathryn Schmid. "It was like going directly to a textbook."

LaBore enjoyed traveling but had many other hobbies, too. She loved history, eating doughnuts, reading books, showering people with gifts, listening to jazz and going to the theater.

She was a member of several book clubs, including the Law Book Club in Edina. She was passionate about building ties with people and relished social gatherings. She often threw neighborhood parties and invited people for potlucks.

"She was so kind, so loving and considerate of other people," said Karen Wilder, who moved into a house next to the LaBores in the late 1970s.

When Wilder's mother died, it was LaBore who helped her through the grief. And she became a godmother to Wilder's son, John. "Rita was like a big sister to me," she said. "She always knew the right things to say."

But for Wilder, it was their 15 years of visits to the Guthrie that left her with fond memories.

"She was a great historian and really loved Shakespearean plays," she said. "She just ate up all of the beautiful environment of the Guthrie, elaborate costuming and story lines."

In addition to Knoer, LaBore is survived by her three other children: Mark, Kenneth and Michele LaBore, all from the Twin Cities area. Services have been held.