Rita M. de Chabert-Schuster (1933-2023)

Rita M. de Chabert
Rita M. de Chabert

Dame of Magistral Grace of the Sovereign Order of Malta in the Virgin Islands, philanthropist, entrepreneur, educator, and real estate developer Rita M. de Chabert-Schuster was born on May 27, 1933, in Christiansted, Virgin Islands, to Ralph de Magne de Chabert, Sr., a journalist and real estate investor, and Ansetta Muckle de Chabert Clarke, an entrepreneur from Frederiksted. Her siblings were Austin Alexander de Chabert Sr., Dr. Ralph A. de Chabert, Atty. Mario de Chabert, and Dr. Shirley de Chabert Highfield.

Schuster graduated from Christiansted High School in Christiansted, St Croix, Virgin Islands, in 1951, where she was crowned “Miss CHS,” the Homecoming Queen. Afterward, she enrolled at Howard University in Washington, DC, and received a Bachelor of Science in 1954. She returned home to teach at the old Christiansted Public Grammar School on King Street (now the Florence Williams Public Library).

On June 21, 1954, Rita M. de Chabert and Lowell Osmond Schuster were married at Saint John’s Anglican Church in Christiansted. They parented four children: Gregory L. Schuster, Janine T. Schuster, Kenneth D. Schuster, and Troy A. de Chabert-Schuster, a former Roman Catholic Priest.

On November 23, 1970, Schuster, along with her mother and siblings, began the construction of Sunny Isle Shopping Center, a de Chabert family enterprise. It is one of the largest shopping malls in the Caribbean, and the de Chabert family sold the center to Sunny Isle Developers in 2005.

Schuster was a Board member of the Virgin Islands Hospital and Health Facilities Corporation from 1996 to 1999. In 2004, She renovated an 1817 former variety store building and successfully petitioned to have it recognized as a historic site by the Saint Croix Historic Preservation Commission. In addition, in 2008, she donated to Catholic Charities the three-story building comprising 11 fully furnished efficiency units at No. 16 Friedenstahl in Christiansted, which serves as the St. Teresa of Calcutta House of Hope, Catholic Charities. It was the first large-scale investment in transitional housing on St. Croix and was funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through the Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority.

In 2017, Schuster received the “Keys and Sword Award Benefits” as the Knights and Dames of Malta from the Diocese of Saint Thomas. Knights and Dames of the Order of Malta devote their lives to the defense of the faith and the service of needy people.

Rita M. de Chabert-Schuster, a Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. St. Croix Alumnae Chapter member, died on Wednesday, October 25, 2023. She was 90.