Marita Gwendolin Leeder left the loving arms of her family to dance eternally with Jack, her best friend and husband of 57 years, on Saturday, July 18, 2020.
Marita was born Feb. 17, 1936, to Kenton and Hazel (Weber) Fowler in Milton, during a severely cold and stormy winter. Despite the cold beginning, Marita touched many lives with her warm and loving spirit, joyful laugh and contagious smile!
At an early age, Marita’s family moved to Whitewater. She attended elementary through high school at the UW-Whitewater College Training School where she was taught by many different student teachers. Marita was able to have sewing classes in third grade, which began her love for sewing and needle work projects, a lifelong passion that she shared with her mother, sister and her whole family. Marita continued onto college at the same campus and earned her bachelor’s degree in Kindergarten-Primary Education in 1958. After teaching in Janesville for two years, Marita decided to pursue her dream to teach the deaf which became a goal after watching her deaf neighbor communicate with her mother by passing notes. Marita attended Gallaudet College in Washington, D.C., and earned a Master’s of Science Degree to teach the deaf and graduated in May 1961. Upon returning to Wisconsin, she taught both hearing and deaf students for four years.
Marita and Jack were married July 1, 1962. They raised their three children, Trae, Linnae and Maria, at their country home of 44 years, overlooking the beautiful Rock Prairie, lovingly caring for the land. They enjoyed dancing together and always worked alongside each other on multiple home, yard and vehicle projects. Marita loved spending time in her beautiful flower gardens and watching the birds. She was so happy the property remains with the family for future generations to care for and enjoy.
Marita treasured the nine years she was home raising her children in their formative years. Always a teacher at heart, she even provided story time for the neighborhood children. In 1974, she took great pride with her return to teaching elementary students at the Wisconsin School for the Deaf until her retirement in 1996. She loved all children and enjoyed watching them flourish through teaching with patience and compassion, both in and out of the classroom. Marita used sign language throughout her teaching career and family life, including teaching her great-grandchildren, “I Love You,” in sign language.
Marita and Jack loved doing everything together! They had fun driving the old cars Jack collected and traveling by car, bus tours and Amtrak train across the country to visit new places. For many years, she and Jack camped — always in a tent! They loved the outdoors, hiking the trails and biking as well. They were often seen collecting trash along the country roads. A favorite trip on their 25th anniversary was by VIA train across Canada and then up the coast of Alaska by state ferry to Juneau area. Marita enjoyed mapping out trips and loved to see what was around the next corner! Her most recent adventure earlier this month took her around Wisconsin and to Colorado. She was so thrilled to spend time with longtime friends and family and take in the beauty of the mountains that she loved!
Marita enjoyed leading and volunteering time and support to local community organizations and church throughout her life. She was a 50+ year member of Cargill United Methodist Church. They chaired and delivered Meals on Wheels for Cargill. They donated blood and worked at the Red Cross blood drives. Marita always found time to sew, crochet and knit. She enjoyed creating and taking on many projects, including designing wedding dresses, upholstery, knitting baby hats and creating beautiful afghans.
Marita enjoyed genealogy and being the family historian. She cherished spending time with her family, sister and extended family of relatives, making many visits to them over the years. In later years Marita provided Jack with unending care and unconditional love as they walked through the journey of Parkinson’s Disease. They moved to Ladysmith, to be near a daughter, family and the care Jack needed. Throughout her brief time in Ladysmith she developed many special friendships with neighbors as well as the staff and residents at Ladysmith Care Community. Marita and Jack continued to dance at the nursing home to the delight of everyone. Marita enjoyed volunteering her time to mend clothing, lead a caregiver support group and make hundreds of masks for the COVID outbreak.
Marita is survived by her son, Trae Leeder (partner, Patrick Getman); daughter, Linnae (Hans) Hamm and daughter, Maria (Craig) Fairbert. She is further survived by grandsons, Mason Gransee (Hannah) and Colton Gransee (Tiffany); bonus grandsons, Charlie McCune (Beth) and Justin (Megan) Barone; granddaughters, Whitney Hamm and Maren Hamm; great-grandchildren, Holly, Hayden, Miley, Eastyn, Camden and Aria. Additional survivors include her sister, Marilyn (Peter) Bondy; brother, Donavan Fowler; brother-in-law, Lee Leeder; sisters-in-law, Carol, Barbara an De Leeder and many cherished nieces and nephews.
She was preceded in death by her parents; brothers-in-law, Daryl, Franklin, Elwyn, Rodney, Dale and Dean Leeder, Arthur (Dick) Rasmussen; sisters-in-law, Janice Rasmussen; Dorotha, Lorrayne, Delores, Alice and Therese Leeder and her mother and father-in-law, William and Gladys Leeder.
A visitation will be held from 10-noon, Thursday, July 23, at Ward-Hurtley Funeral Home in Evansville with interment to follow at Maple Hill Cemetery in Evansville.
In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be given to the Ladysmith Care Community Activity Fund, Parkinson’s Support Group in Janesville or Meals on Wheels in Janesville.
Marita had a beautiful soul, positive sprit and saw beauty in everyone and everything, she enjoyed life to the fullest and touched everyone she met! She was loved just as much as she loved her family and friends. Hearts are breaking with the thought of missing her, however we will always remember “Everyday is a good day.” and “Be the best possible person you can be.”
“The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.” Helen Keller
Condolences may be expressed at wardhurtley.com.