OBITUARY

Rita A. Heller

July 29, 1924August 3, 2022
Obituary of Rita A. Heller
Rita A. Heller (nee Albert), 98, a lifelong resident of Cleveland, passed away Aug. 3, 2022. Born July 29, 1924, to Peter and Anna Albert, Rita graduated from Shaker Heights High School (class of 1943). There was always a special kind of energy that filled the room when Rita walked in. Rita was the embodiment of light, love, sensitivity, determination and grace. A natural beauty who embraced all those who were fortunate to know her. Rita was married to her adoring husband Dr. Milton Heller from 1943 when they married in Cleveland until he died in the mid-1990’s. Rita is survived by their three children -- Jim Heller (Barbara), Roger Heller (Caydie), and Pamela Heller (Geoffrey Steinberg) -- all of whom continue to live in the Cleveland area; and by her loving niece, Gayle Horowitz; and loving nephew, Jeffrey Albert. Rita also has 8 grandchildren: Ryan Heller (Jennifer ), Kari DuBro (Evan), Darcy Hershey (Aaron), Jessica Van Dyke (Deceased), Jonathan Heller(Leanne), Cassidy Willis (Jay), Tessa Hanna (Drew), and Anna Graves (Sean); and 12 great- grandchildren. For over a decade, Rita has had her dear friend Herb Haar as her companion. A devoted wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother, sister, aunt, daughter and friend. Her heart and home were always open to others. Rita was known to offer you a meal or her red devil chocolate cake, a recipe passed down from her mother. Whether you were hungry or not, you simply had to have a taste. Often she would wrap something up for you to take home to your kids, or savor for the following day. There was always a place for someone at Ritaʼs table. She was loyal and understanding. She could spin a good story, with humor and many details making you want to stick around for her next observation. Rita was savvy, always coming up with creative ways to solve a problem. Rita was the daughter of immigrant parents who came to the United States from Russia and Poland fleeing the pogroms. She was the youngest of three children. She grew up on E. 99th St. with her eldest sister, Hilda, and her brother, Jerry. Her father, Peter, had a house painting business while her mother, Anna, was an expert dressmaker who taught her how to tailor her own clothing, which she passed onto others in the family. She and Hilda could be seen taking the streetcar to go shopping around downtown Cleveland in their youth. They wore meticulously fitted suits with hats to match, custom made by their mother. On hot summer nights the whole family would camp out on Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard along with every ethnic group you could imagine - families lying on blankets, all escaping the heat of the night. Most of Rita’s mother’s family lived in Philadelphia, where they had immigrated. Rita spent several months every summer through her late teens, living with her great-grandparents, aunt and uncles often traveling to Atlantic City, N.J., to spend days at the beach indulging in homemade kosher food. Deeply connected to her Jewish roots , Rita was a member of the True Sisters organization. She volunteered at Mount Sinai Hospital, pushing a cart from room to room, filled with magazines for the patients. For many years Rita worked part time for Rae Phillips, a high style boutique on the East Side. It was the perfect hobby for her, as she was the quintessential stylist who knew exactly what was flattering and what was not. She taught members of her family how to make patterns and sew. Her magic hands could cut and spin up an outfit practically overnight. Milt was an adventurer and an interesting balance to Rita’s more grounded nature. For example, Milt wanted to see the world - in the early years of their marriage they moved west to California, only to move back shortly thereafter so Rita could live near family. But they also shared many adventures as well. Their many travels extended to Europe and beyond. Once in the 1960’s on one of their travels to Mexico, Rita and Milt befriended a professional water skier and resort owner in Acapulco, who temporarily moved to Cleveland for the summer to live in their home. He taught water skiing and performed Sunday ski shows for the new temporary business venture called the Ski Easy Water Ski School at Wyoga Lake Park, south of Cleveland. Rita had many friends, constantly cooking for all the parties she and Milt hosted. Her recipe boxes are filled with 100ʼs of handwritten recipes, many dedicated to the friend that passed on the recipe to her. Year after year, Rita played tennis as well as golf. She savored her card games with girlfriends including canasta, mahjong and bridge. The same four women sat around the card table and played at each other’s homes for over 60 years. Rita was a whiz at mahjong. Her memory for every tile stayed with her for her entire life. She was always challenging herself, never afraid to take on another game. All of us who knew her will say that Rita’s essence was her long and lasting relationships - with family, with friends, and even with strangers that she met along her 98-year life journey. She has, of course, outlived most of her longest relationships, and she had many - her sister, Hilda and brother, Jerry; her one aunt and many uncles; her cousins, and her many long friendships that went far back to her youth. Until her last days, she would insist on stopping to talk to everyone she knew - it was hard to even get down the hallway of her last residence at Stone Gardens Assisted Living without stopping to talk. And until the very end her incredible memory would serve her well, as she would never forget any one of the many family and friends in her life, or any of the many stories they told. Rita may have passed on but she leaves her family and friends with the most important words that she often spoke. She wants to remind all of us, even strangers, that when you are at a loss of words remember just say “I love you.” Graveside funeral services will be held at 11:30 a.m. Aug. 12 at Mount Olive Cemetery, 27855 Aurora Road in Solon. For information about the visitation, which will be outdoors, please contact family or email to ritahellervisitation@gmail.com. Family requests masking and social distancing at graveside service and visitation. Family and friends who are unable to attend the service may view it beginning Saturday, August 13th by going to Youtube, under search enter: Rita Heller Funeral Service. Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at www.berkowitzkuminbookatzfunerals.com for the Heller family.

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Past Services

Friday, August 12, 2022

Graveside Service