Rita Mattera, whose daughter was a Cook County corrections officer who died from complications related to coronavirus, said her daughter was a very caring person who touched countless lives through many acts of kindness.
“At the funeral one of her co-workers came up to me and asked, ‘Did you teach her how to make bracelets?’” Mattera said. After inquiring what he meant, the officer explained that Mattera’s daughter, Sheila Rivera, had made him a bracelet as a tribute to his mother who had just passed.
“She was buying Alex and Ani bracelets and this is one example of how she gave herself to people,” Mattera said.
“It was an honor to receive a bracelet from her,” the officer told Mattera.
Rivera, 47, died in April, one of three corrections officers at the county jail who have died from complications from coronavirus. She left a husband and 16-year-old son.
Mattera recently heard about Teamsters Local 700’s campaign to fight for hazard pay for all corrections officers.
“I am an attorney and I received hazard pay,” Mattera said. “The officers at the jail deserve hazard pay.”
Rivera earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in social work, and completed a certificate in pastoral counseling. She was also an ordained minister. This background in social work gave Rivera an ability to connect with people, including inmates.
“There was one inmate who was mean and abusive and difficult to work with,” Mattera said. “My daughter took the time to talk to her and learned that the inmate wanted to be transferred to a mental-health unit. My daughter downloaded the paperwork and helped the inmate get transferred to get the necessary treatment.”
Rivera also loved to bake chocolate chip cookies and cupcakes to bring to co-workers throughout the jail, Mattera said.
Rivera loved visiting Disney World in Florida and visited the park often, sometimes every other month.
“She was always discovering new attractions and places to eat at Disney, and she wanted to retire in Orlando near Disney,” Mattera said.
“When she was very young, she stacked her books and her clothes were always put away neatly,” Mattera said. “She was funny and happy. I called her ‘Miss Sunshine.’”
As adults, if Mattera was having a bad day and she talked on the phone with her daughter, “before I knew it, we would be laughing together.”
Mattera said she misses her daughter so much, but is very proud of what she achieved. She said she was comforted by all the stories her co-workers—her fellow corrections officers—shared with her at the funeral.
Mattera has scheduled a memorial service for her daughter “Possum” on September 25th at 9 a.m. in Philadelphia, Mississippi. The funeral procession will start at the Choctaw Police Department, where she started her law enforcement career.