Rita (Diedam) Weiss
1924 - 2021
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Rita Diedam Weiss - Woman of Grace

Loving wife, mother, grandmother, aunt, sister, daughter, and educator, Rita Marie Diedam Weiss of Elmhurst, Illinois, passed away peacefully in her sleep on January 23, 2021.

Born on May 30, 1924, in rural Indiana, Rita broke many barriers for a woman of her time. She came from a family of seven children and was the first in her family to attend college. She graduated from Purdue University in 1946 and was awarded an academic scholarship to attend graduate school at the University of Puerto Rico. In 1951, she set sail on the Queen Elizabeth to tour Europe as a young, single woman.

While teaching at Purdue Fort Wayne, Rita met the love of her life, the equally adventurous Dr. Stuart L. Weiss. They married in 1963 and shared a passionate union of more than 50 years. Rita gave birth to two daughters - Vanessa and Veronica - and, through marriage, was blessed with two more daughters and a son: Stephanie, Valerie, and Matthew.

Rita became a master teacher of English and Classical Literature, as well as Logic and Rational Thought. She was recognized as Teacher of the Year by the Governor of Illinois multiple times. Rita practiced her vocation for more than 64 years, introducing countless students to the beauty of the English language while also sharing her passion for art. Numerous students contacted her as long as 40 years later to thank her for her inspiration and influence in shaping their lives.

Rita's strong, fearless personality - combined with her gentle demeanor, natural empathy, and compassion for others - made her a compelling teacher and an incredible human being. Ever a supporter of the "underdog," she did not hesitate to speak up for those suffering from any sort of discrimination. She was a strong supporter of the Civil Rights and Women's Rights movements, and she was politically active well into her 80s. She was a great proponent of civility and debate and always had an open ear, as well as an open mind and heart, to listen to those with opposing views.

Constantly seeking new intellectual challenges, Rita read broadly and continually pursued new interests, including becoming an art docent in her 70s and 80s. She delighted in meeting new people and organized a number of book clubs and art clubs when she and Stuart moved to the Bay Area and later to Las Vegas. Throughout her life, Rita continued to use her mind and spirit to bring beauty to others through poetry, art, and literature.

Rita and Stuart loved to travel and took their children on expansive trips throughout the U.S. in their earlier years together. Later in life, it brought them much joy to travel with their adult children's families throughout Europe, Asia, South America, and the Middle East. Rita had the ability to fully absorb the beauty around her - from family, friends, nature, art, poetry, literature, music, and food. She then incorporated those experiences into poetry she wrote for her family and friends.

Rita and Stuart were known for their dinner parties, where great food and spirited discussion were always in abundance. Their home was a refuge where relationships were cultivated between people of all backgrounds. Rita made everyone feel important by always giving them her full attention. She had a remarkable ability to make everyone comfortable in her presence, as well as an exceptional capacity to see the good in everyone and help others appreciate their own uniqueness.

Rita will be greatly missed by all who knew her for her kindness, warmth, joy, compassion, understanding, generosity of spirit, and - most of all - her grace.

Rita's family was the light of her life. She leaves behind a wonderful legacy in her children: Vanessa Weiss (Francesco) Villa, Stephanie Weiss-Wood, Valerie Weiss, Veronica (Mark) Shea, and Maria "Coco" Gonzalez; her grandchildren: Andrew (Samantha) Wood, Ryan Shea, Madeleine Shea, Raffaele Villa, and Jovana Gonzalez; and her great-grandchildren: Kelsey Wood and Victoria Wood.

Rita is also survived by her dear sister, Mary Alice (Bill) Catron, and her beloved sister-in-law, Meredith Miller, as well as many nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her husband, Stuart L. Weiss, and their son, Matthew Weiss.

The family is eternally grateful to Maria "Coco" Gonzalez for the love and care she provided; Coco was truly another daughter to Rita.

Due to COVID-19, a private burial will be held. A Zoom celebration of life will be held in early March. Anyone wishing to attend, please email (californiagal95033@gmail.com) for details.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations in memory of Rita to the Alzheimer's Association (act.alz.org/donate).

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in Newton County Enterprise on Feb. 26, 2021.
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