Rita Polockow died peacefully at Charlton Memorial Hospital in Fall River, MA on April 26, 2023. She was 97 years old.
Rita was born in Yonkers, NY to John and Anna Obertanec, both Ellis Island immigrants from Czechoslovakia. She was the second child of six.
On November 15, 1947, she married Andrew Polockow, the love of her life. Rita and Andy were married for 74 years. They raised one daughter, Dorothy Polockow.
Rita grew up quickly due to a hardscrabble life with immigrant parents who were trying to make a living during a difficult time in history. It shaped her into a strong, independent woman with a determined and resilient spirit that her family always admired. Her life was full of transitions between city life in Yonkers, Hastings and the family farm in Little Falls, NY. She spent most of her formative years on the farm, attending a one-room school house, learning to drive a truck at fourteen and helping to raise her four younger siblings. During the war, at just 16, determined to make her way in the world, Rita borrowed her older sister’s name, birth certificate and social security number to gain employment at the Ward Leonard Electric Company in Mount Vernon, NY, where she worked on assembling resister winders. She also worked nights part-time at The Reader’s Digest Association, in Pleasantville, NY, and Gimbal’s Department Store. During her married years, she worked at St. John’s Riverside Hospital in Yonkers, NY, as a senior clerk typist managing the state’s records and typing birth certificates. She and her husband retired in 1983 and moved from her home in Hastings back to the family farm in Little Falls, NY, caring for her mother full time.
Rita was kind, generous and loving to all. Throughout her life, she loved to cook and entertain family and friends. She hosted many celebrations, holidays and get-togethers in Hastings with her husband and in Little Falls when they retired. She adored her many dogs and cats, always had a garden and occasionally fished with her husband Andrew, who was an avid fisherman. The city girl in her enjoyed opera, museums, Broadway shows and shopping at Lord and Taylor. The beautiful bucolic farmstead of her roots was where she was happiest though, planting flower and vegetable gardens, cutting fields, picking apples, stacking wood or doing whatever needed to be done.
She volunteered at the historic Herkimer Home in Little Falls and was the secretary of the Leatherstocking Spinners Guild where she and her daughter enjoyed demonstrating at shows and events the twisting technique to form yarn from wool fibers on her antique wheel. She later donated her antique Flax Wheel to the Farmers Museum in Cooperstown, NY.
In 1977, Rita took her mother Anna on an emotional trip back to Czechoslovakia so she could re-unite with family she hadn’t seen in decades. A tragic macular degeneration diagnosis in the 80’s eventually darkened Rita’s world but it did not prevent her from continuing to enjoy doing what she loved. Gradual blindness changed her life but not her spirit and she remained fiercely independent while her devoted husband Andrew supported her in any way she allowed. Rita was a great family historian and her memories will live on in her descendants.
Rita is predeceased by her husband Andrew, daughter Dorothy, and siblings; Dorothy Kapala, John Obertanec, Helen Obertanec and Andrew Obertanec. She is survived by her youngest sister, Valarie Hopkins, and several nephews and nieces, one of whom moved her to Massachusetts to be closer to family in her final year.
A private family service will be held at a later date. Arrangements are by the Donaghy New Day Cremation and Funeral Care, 465 County St., New Bedford. For memorial register please visit, www.newdayfunerals.com.
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