Obituary: Renee Rinaldi

Dec. 6, 1963 – Aug. 21, 2021

Renee Kathleen Rinaldi passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday, August 31, 2021. She was born on Dec 6, 1963, in State College, Pa. Her spouse, Penny Peterson, could never remember the correct name and always called it “College Town,” which Renee thought was hilarious! Renee was the youngest of 5 children born to Richard and Verda Rinaldi. Verda called her “Renee Baby,” which over the years morphed into “Nibby Bon Bibby,” a term of endearment her mom always used when leaving a message.

Renee traveled the world with her family while her father was in the military. A vivid memory of her time living in Germany was when St Nicholas and Krampus would come visiting on Christmas Eve, always fearful she would end up in the bag for “naughty children.” Renee was afraid of thunderstorms as a child, and to help her stay calm would hold onto sister Rachael’s hair and sing, “Who’s afraid of thunder, thunder’s just a lot of noise, who’s afraid of thunder, like the noise we make with toys, when the thunder comes with a boom boom boom, we get out our drums, and we room toom toom.” Even as an adult, she would sing this during a storm, and the kids, and Penny, would always laugh and join in.

Renee and her family ended up in Colorado Springs, CO. She graduated from Doherty High School in 1982 and went on to BYU, where she graduated in 1986. Renee received her Master of Photography degree from Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara. She was quite surprised when, years later, BYU called and said, “you are only ½ a PE credit away from graduating,” as she thought she had graduated in 1986! Renee had taken a bowling class at BYU and was never able to break 100, even after multiple failed attempts, which kept her from completing the class and graduating. Shortly after finding out that she had not actually graduated from BYU, her diploma came in the mail, as BYU had forgiven the ½ credit. She and Penny often laughed that she received her master’s degree in 1986 and her bachelor’s degree in 2003.

Renee lived in San Francisco for a year after BYU and always expressed fond memories of friends she met while living there. She often admits she wasn’t prepared for how cold it was in the city and had to buy numerous coats at a thrift store the first week there!

Renee Rinaldi, center in glasses holding the Queer Nation banner. Photo: Connell O’Donovan

While getting her master’s degree, she lived for a time with her oldest sister, Susan, building a strong bond with Susan during this time. They loved to sing together, and both have beautiful voices. Renee’s parents moved to Salt Lake, and Renee eventually followed. She ran the Utah Stonewall Center and became an activist with Queer Nation Utah along with friends Connell O’Donovan and Tony Palmer. Renee was always a strong advocate for the LGBTQ+ community and made lifelong friends all along the way. Renee and Penny met briefly for the first time at a friend’s party and then again years later at a Starz Game where Penny sensed Renee was going to be someone important in her life. Renee and Penny became life partners in 2002 after Renee asked Penny to give her “violin lessons,” which became a running joke with all their friends. It’s interesting to note that Renee’s and Penny’s parents already knew each other because they sat next to each other at BYU football games and lived in the same Stake. Renee was working for eBay when she and Penny met, which allowed them to build their beautiful home that they called “the house that eBay built” because Renee cashed out her stock to buy it. Renee handled the build and made every decorating decision as she is incredibly creative and artistic. She filled their home with beautiful art and, according to Penny, “put everything I own down in the basement where it still sits today”!

In 2006 Renee and Penny decided to start a family. They were so excited when their oldest son, Carter, was born in Salt Lake City in October 2006. Renee and Penny adopted Carter shortly after he was born. They soon welcomed their second child, a daughter named Berkeley. Berkeley was born in Washington State in April 2008. Renee and Penny traveled to Washington State to complete the adoption but were unable to return to Utah until the adoption was complete. They called on their friends Trude and Jane in the Bay Area, who let the four of them, plus two dogs, live in their basement for 30 days, forever grateful for their friends’ kindness. Once the adoption was complete, and they were driving home from Seattle, they looked at each other and said, “if we survived this, we can survive anything!”

They were so excited when California legalized marriage in 2013. They traveled to California with Carter and Berkeley to be legally married. They were married at sunset, surrounded by many dear and close friends, on the balcony of Trude and Jane’s home that overlooks the San Francisco Bay. Renee spent hours perfecting the details of their wedding, which culminated in a wonderful celebration of their love. Having children brought such joy into their lives. Renee was a wonderful mother and gave the kids many opportunities due to her love of adventure. She enjoyed planning awesome themed birthday parties with beautiful cakes to match. Renee loved to cook and throw parties and would spend weeks planning which she enjoyed as much as the actual party! Renee loved to travel and, as a Study Coordinator at the University of Utah, was required to attend numerous conferences. Penny often tagged along, and one of their most memorable trips was to Vienna, Austria. Their funniest trip was to New York City right after Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Their hotel reservation got lost, and they ended up in a basement room of the “Bates Hotel,” where there was a bloody handprint on the wall in the bathroom. They didn’t sleep a wink that night and were happy to get out of there alive but couldn’t stop laughing about it later. They returned to New York City in 2015 on a “sister trip” with Rachael and Susan. It rained the entire time but they had a blast eating bagels, riding the “Hop on Hop off bus,” and going to numerous plays, which was one of Renee’s favorite things. She always had the Broadway Channel dialed in on SiriusXM radio in her car. She loved going to the movies and getting popcorn and M&M’s. She never passed up the opportunity to watch “A Few Good Men” or “Apollo 13” if she came upon them while channel surfing and was also a rabid West Wing fan.

Renee loved her family, including nieces and nephews. She thoughtfully gave them gifts each Christmas and was especially close to her sister Rachael and always enjoyed the time they spent together. Renee and Penny were lucky to live close to Renee’s parents, who provide love and support for Carter and Berkeley, which was especially helpful as Renee’s health deteriorated. Renee was always thinking of others and loved doing “good deeds” by buying gloves and hats for the homeless. She also spent her birthday each year taking the kids to buy gifts for needy children. Renee’s example prompted Berkeley to announce one year she was giving all her Christmas gifts to Sub for Santa.

Renee was plagued with health problems the last few years of her life. She handled all of it with grace and dignity, even when she lost her ability to walk or write, which was especially hard for her as she had the most beautiful penmanship. Renee was diagnosed with kidney failure in January 2021 and started dialysis two months ago. Dialysis gave Renee a renewed strength and optimism as she found the ability to participate in activities she had missed out on but sadly died on August 31, 2021, during a dialysis treatment.

Renee filled their home with love, warmth, compassion, creativity, humor, and art. Penny is so thankful that Renee was in her life for almost 20 years, and her passing has left a hole in our hearts but also a lifetime of wonderful memories.

Renee leaves behind her wife of 19 years, Penny Peterson, children Carter and Berkeley, cats Skylander and Poppy, new Corgi pups Zuko and Azula, parents Richard and Verda Rinaldi – Riverton, Utah, siblings Susan Weldon – Oahu, Hawaii, Rick (Jaime) – San Diego, California, Ron – Riverton, Utah, and Rachael (Brett) – Lehi, Utah. In-laws Eddie and Win Peterson – SLC, Utah, siblings-in-law Patti (John) – Cary, NC, Gary (Lisa) – Sandy, Utah, Mike (Shelley) – Highland, Utah. Renee is preceded in death by her grandparents Henry and Dorothy Darnell and George and Jesusita Rinaldi.

We all adored Renee. Please join us for an open house and celebration of her life on Friday, September 10, 2021, from 6:–8 p.m. The open house will be held at 9245 Quail Run Drive, Sandy, UT, in the gazebo behind the church. In lieu of flowers, please donate to The Road Home, the Pride Center, or a charity of your choosing.

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