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Rita VanAntwerp


Rita VanAntwerp, age 90 of Grand Rapids, MI passed away into the loving arms of Jesus on June 9, 2023. Rita was born on December 24, 1932, in Grand Rapids, MI and was the daughter of Alexander and Catherine Gabert. Rita was the eldest daughter and had 4 sisters. She spoke fondly of her childhood growing up on the West Side, including frequent interactions with her extended Polish family. She learned early the value of hard work from both her father and mother. Rita prided herself in being a tough Polish gal, which included surviving breast cancer in her very early 30’s and then again in her 70’s.

After graduating from Catholic Central High School in 1950, she met and married the love of her life, Frederick VanAntwerp (T-Bird Ted) and they were blessed with two children, Theodore (Ted) and Richard VanAntwerp. In the 60’s she was an office manager at Westdale Real Estate and also worked at Ottawa Hills High School in the audio/visual department. She also co-owned an antique shop, Ancient Treasures from 1964-1970. Rita and Ted purchased the Embassy Bar and Restaurant in Saugatuck, MI and ran it with the help of their sons from 1973 to 1994. It was known for its broasted chicken and antique décor. Being a people person, Rita really enjoyed interacting with all their customers. In the off season, the family would travel to many auctions and car shows in their motor home, affectionately referred to as “the bus”, and would acquire treasures to add to their vast collection.

After the sale of the Embassy Bar in 1994, Rita continued her love of food service and interacting with people as an employee of Marywood Academy in Grand Rapids from 1995-2011, she then retired at the age of 79. She loved visiting with all the nuns and didn’t mind going into work in the wee hours of the morning. Rita’s culinary interests transcended into her own home where she delighted in baking lots of goodies around Christmastime. She would start in early December and would make gift bags overflowing with baked goods for friends. She was especially fond of carrying on her mom’s tradition of baking and hand painting Santa Claus cookies and Polish Placek bread. Rita’s niece, Julie, never had an apple pie better than Rita’s and, when she makes huge batches of goodies she calls it, “cooking Aunt Rita style.”

Rita is survived by her son, Ted; daughter-in-law, Barbara VanAntwerp; both of Grand Rapids; sisters, Evelyn Jane Secord of Grand Rapids, Lorraine Jerkatis of Broomfield, CO, and Christine Budnick of Waxhaw, NC.  and many nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends. She was preceded in death by her husband, Ted; son, Rich; sister, Judy Vandervate; as well as her parents.

Celebration of Life will be held in the fall of 2023. Burial will be at Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery in Grand Rapids amongst many relatives.

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5 Responses

  1. Rest in peace Rita! You are well remembered here on the Marywood campus. Offering prayers for your family and friends. May we all be comforted by warm memories of the life you lived so well.

  2. My condolences to Rita’s family and friends! I worked at Marywood and Dominican Center at Marywood from 2007 until 2015. I didn’t get to know Rita extremely well because I was mainly working in the office but I do remember a lot of laughter and good food during her lunch breaks she was a sweet lady and a kind woman, she would walk the extra mile for anyone who needed her. And then, when she joined the associate, I was thrilled that she was joining us to do whatever we could to help each other and to help others. She will be greatly missed by not only her family and friends, but by the associates, the sisters, and by me with love and warm regards from Rosemary Steers

  3. Rita was one of the dearest people I’ve known. She attended St. Jude Parish where our friendship began. Then we were closely connected therough the Grand Rapids Dominicans. As fellow Dominican Associates we shared in so many spiritual and social events. My sincerest condolences to all who knew and loved Rita. She was a treasure.

  4. I am sorry for your loss. May she rest in peace and perpetual light shine upon her.

  5. Rita was a great asset to the Marywood community. We miss her cheerful ways and ready smile.

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