Obituary: AnnRita Levis Hader

Obituary: AnnRita Levis Hader

AnnRita Levis Hader was born in Evanston, Ill. to Herbert and Jeanette Levis.

AnnRita Levis Hader was born in Evanston, Ill. to Herbert and Jeanette Levis. At the age of seven, Rita fell in love with the violin and played throughout her high school years at Evanston Township High School. When she was fifteen, she won a citywide musical competition to perform as the first soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. As a young adult, Rita entertained audiences at Chicago’s Blue Angel nightclub with her violin and her magnificent singing voice. In 1957, Rita married Jesse Hader, a dashing young dental student. The newlyweds moved to Augusta, Ga., where Jesse was stationed at Fort Gordon. Rita soon was hired as the promotion and music director at WRDW-TV. Shortly thereafter, she was given her own television variety show, titled after her stage name — The Rita Russell Show.

In 1959, when Jesse’s tour of duty was over, Rita and Jesse decided to make their home in Atlanta. Rita’s television connections led to an offer as promotions director for WAGA-TV; however, since the position would involve a lot of travel, Rita chose to start a family instead. Her three children — Stacey, Joan and Robert — were born within three years. Motherhood was Rita’s calling. She created a household filled with games, dress-up, crafts, books and an open ear for her children, as well as for their friends. She started a neighborhood kids’ club, The Candy Canes, where kids created handmade get-well cards for the patients at Egleston Hospital for Children. She founded the Creative Dramatics Workshop, an after-school creative theater outlet for children in the Toco Hills area, which taught acting theory, set design, script writing and directing. Its subsidiary, the Children’s Caravan Theatre, was a traveling theater for children. Its young actors performed several times at what was then called Scottish Rite Hospital for Crippled Children.

When her children were nearing their teens, Rita went back to school to earn her bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. degrees in psychology. During those years, she volunteered at and served on the board of the Council on Battered Women. With her Ph.D. in hand, Rita opened a private practice in adult therapy, which she continued for over 30 years. During this time, she hosted an “after hours” radio show on WGST, “For Adults Only,” a no-holds-barred call-in program on adult relationships.

Several years after she and Jesse divorced, Rita found love again with her soulmate, Jerry Siegel. The two married in 2003 and spent many beautiful and laughter-filled years together before his death in 2012. Though her life was filled with creativity and professional achievements, Rita saved most of her heart for her children and grandchildren. Her grandchildren — Jenna, Rachel and Elana — could do no wrong! No matter where they lived, she never missed celebrating a birthday of one of her ziskeits (“sweethearts” in Yiddish) in person.

Rita’s unbridled passion for her family, her delight in Tropicana Roses, L’Air du Temps, Latin American music, a mean game of Gin Rummy, and her unwavering taste for chocolate chip cookies and York Peppermint Patties will continue to comfort and bring smiles to her family in the years ahead. Much love and gratitude to her caregivers over the years: Vivette, Matelita, Martha, Anne and Kathryn, as well as the extraordinary staff at Sunrise at Huntcliff Summit II, whose dedication, compassion, and love will not soon be forgotten.

Survivors include daughters Stacey Hader Epstein (David), Joan Hader (Brian Katz), and son, Bob Hader (Donna), grandchildren Jenna Epstein (Alicia Salvino), Rachel Epstein and Elana Katz and numerous heartbroken cousins and friends throughout the U.S.

Donations may be made in Rita’s blessed memory to the Partnership Against Domestic Violence, Ner Israel Rabbinical College or Camp Ho Mita Koda Funeral services were held in Atlanta. Arrangements by Dressler’s Jewish Funeral Care, 770.451.4999.

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