Affectionately known as “Busia” to her beloved grandchildren, Rita Spruck truly appreciated the gift of family in everything she did. She tenderly cared for several family members during their time of need and highly valued the homestead that was in her family for nearly a century. Rita knew what it meant to work hard, but she effortlessly found so much fun in every day as well. Those who loved Rita will forever remember her “schtup moments” and her fun-loving spirit, but it will be her compassionate heart that will be missed most of all.
The decade that became the Roaring Twenties was a vibrant time in America with Broadway at an all time peak, the end of the silent film era, and songs like “Ain’t She Sweet.” The year 1927 was marked with much growth and expansion with the opening of the Holland Tunnel in New York, Charles Lindbergh’s first successful transatlantic flight, and the beginning of construction on Mount Rushmore. This was a remarkable year for the family of John C. and Rose (Mrotek) Landowski as they welcomed the birth of their daughter, Rita Catherine, on March 12th. Born in the family homestead at 2154 South 11th Street on the south side of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Rita was the youngest of four children in her family including her brother, Tony, and her sisters, Cecelia and Florence. Her father was a church organist at St. Hyacinth Parish while her mother cared for their family.
The carefree twenties came to an abrupt halt after the stock market crash on October 29, 1929, on what is known as Black Tuesday. Times were tough for countless American families during the Great Depression of the thirties and the Landowski family was one who struggled to make ends meet. Rita attended local schools including St. Hyacinth Grade School and St. Mary’s Academy High School. Her education didn’t end there, however, as she earned her bachelor’s degree in speech therapy from Marquette University in 1945 when she was just 18 years old.
Life took an exciting turn for Rita when she met the man with whom she would share an enduring love. His name was Anthony Spruck and he co-owned and tended bar at the Saratoga, a tavern named after the famous race track ( as Tony was a fan of horse racing). Rita’s father, her brother, and her sister Florence frequented the tavern and when Rita joined them, she caught Tony’s eye. Rita wasn’t too fond of him at first, but he was determined to win her heart. Over time, Tony’s persistence paid off and a romance developed. After falling in love, the couple was married on May 8, 1948, at St. Hyacinth Parish.
The newlyweds lived above the bar for some time. Although they had hopes of starting their family right away, it would be eight years before their precious gift, Andrea, arrived on June 23, 1956. With the birth of their daughter Lauren on November 29, 1959, their family was complete. They moved a few times throughout their married life, but never too far from Rita’s and Tony’s families’ homes. No matter where they called home, Rita was a meticulous housekeeper who even cleaned her attic! She fully immersed herself into caring for her husband and daughters as well, always putting their needs ahead of her own. When other members of her family needed something, Rita tenderly cared for them, too. Family and faith were the most important things to her and it showed by the life she lived each and every day. Although Rita worked hard, she also enjoyed having fun with her family. Priceless memories were made on family vacations including those to the Wisconsin Dells, Little Norway, and Cave of the Mounds among other local destinations.
Much of Rita’s time was spent with her family, but she also enjoyed some activities that took her outside the home. She worked as a receptionist in a family member’s insurance agency, but it was around 1970 that she started working in the kitchen at Alverno College. Rita continued to work in food service there for 30 years until she retired in 2000 as the head cook.
After she retired, Rita’s days were filled with caring for her beloved husband Tony. Her caring spirit extended towards other family members as well. It was clear that the best part of Rita’s week was when she received calls from her granddaughters. They were the light of her life, and she was so very proud of their accomplishments.
There was so much to love about Rita. She was a faith filled woman who was honest and always saw the best in everyone. These attributes along with her kind and gentle demeanor were perhaps what made her a bit gullible as well. When Rita found out that she had been fooled or had made a mistake, she would respond with, “I am such a schtup,” rather than calling herself stupid for having done such a thing. Moments like these later became known as “schtup moments” in her honor.
Tony’s death in 2001, left a great void in Rita’s life. Life at home was lonely for her and although it was hard to leave the homestead that was such a significant part of her family heritage, she accepted the offer to move to Suamico to live with her daughter Lauren and her husband, Rick. Rita lived there for the next eight years and fully embraced life, too. She blended right into her new life and became part of their social activities including Packer games, playing cards, taking trips, enjoying a martini and of course, cleaning. Although medical challenges made life difficult at times, Rita was resilient and always bounced back – a walking miracle who was near death on more than one occasion. She continued to delight in her family, especially their newest addition, her great-granddaughter Keena. Their talks on the phone were some of the most treasured moments in Rita’s life.
It was clear that Rita Spruck was a firm believer in taking every moment captive as she did just that every day of her life. She lived to love deeply and was blessed with a heart of compassion. If there was ever any way she could help, Rita was there, and her acts of kindness were truly unmatched. She leaves behind countless memories that will continue to be treasured by those she leaves behind.
Rita Spruck died on Saturday, October 9, 2010. Rita’s family includes her daughters, Andrea (Jeff) Westerinen and Lauren (Rick) Mantych; grandchildren, Samantha (Martin) Jameson, Stephanie James and Rebecca Westerinen; great-granddaughter, Keena Jameson; and many other relatives and friends. Rita was preceded in death by her beloved husband, Anthony V. Spruck; brother, Tony Landowski; and sisters, Cecelia Gurda and Florence Landowski. Family and friends will gather Friday, October 15 at St. Augustine Parish 2530 S. Howell Ave. from 9:30 a.m. until time of the Memorial Mass at 11:00 a.m. Inurnment St. Adalbert Cemetery. Funeral arrangements by Suminski Family Funeral Homes, Niemann / Suminski. Please visit www.lifestorynet.com where you can leave a memory or sign the online guestbook.
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