The sun was just beginning to rise on a crisp, sunny, cold winter’s day when Rita passed away in her home surrounded by family on February 21st. Days like this would often prompt her to share childhood stories about playing in the fresh snow on a sunny winter’s day in Heesakker’s woods with neighborhood friends near her home in Little Chute. The sun always lifted Rita’s spirits as she enjoyed her 89th Wisconsin winter, and on this beautiful day God called her to join him in heaven.
Rita was born to Anna and George Vanden Hogen in Little Chute on November 3rd, 1930, and passed away at the age of 89 on February 21st, 2020. Her parents were Dutch immigrants, and handed down a strong faith and many of the rich traditions of life in the Netherlands to their family of 8 children. As the second oldest, Rita took on many of the household responsibilities and enjoyed the role of big sister to her brothers and sisters. She attended school at St. John’s in Little Chute, before accepting a bank teller position at the Little Chute bank after graduation from high school.
She met Sylvester(Ves) Vander Heiden at a young age as a family friend. Ves’s father, Leonard Vander Heyden, was a good friend of George Vanden Hogen with roots that go back to their childhood in Holland. Rita and Ves later dated after high school, and were married in Little Chute on September 4th, 1954. Together they raised their own family of four children in Kimberly, anchored by her hard work and unwavering commitment to her family.
Rita loved her family with all of her heart, and made many personal sacrifices along the way so that others might have a little better life. She was very proud of the big Vanden Hogen family that surrounded her as she grew up, with each brother and sister representing a special lifelong bond that were so very important to her.
Her children were at the center of her world, and each were molded from her unconditional love and attention. She taught us many of the values that were at the core of her life, including empathy, compassion and a tireless work ethic. As a cancer survivor of over 20 years, she demonstrated tremendous courage and determination to be there for us when we needed her. Rita was a caring mother, who had a passionate interest in each of our lives, while giving us the space that we needed to find our own purpose in life.
Rita found true happiness in her later years through the very special relationships that she fostered with her 9 grandchildren. She was determined to stay in touch and offer her support to each as they grew up. Visits and emails from the grandkids would light up her life in a way that nothing else could. She was famous for a thoughtful note or card that let them know that she was thinking of them and proud of the people they are becoming.
Rita is survived by her loving husband of 65 years, Sylvester, and children Jim(Debbie) Vander Heiden, Ann(Jeff)Gillis, Tom(Kim)Vander Heiden and Scott(Joy)Vander Heiden. She is also survived by brothers Father Paul Vanden Hogen and Jerry(Maureen) Vanden Hogen, and sisters Sister Paula Vanden Hogen, Mary Hietpas, Sister Paulyn Vanden Hogen, Judy(Dave)Simon and Dorothy(Bob) Nelson. Her precious Grandchildren include Brittney(Tyler)Franklin, Delaney Vander Heiden, Kelsey(Kevin)McKibbin, John Gillis, Kassi(Matthew)Chase, Joshua Vander Heiden, Zachary Vander Heiden, Hannah Vander Heiden and George H. Vander Heiden, and great grandson Carter Chase. Rita is preceeded in death by her parents, Anna and George Vanden Hogen, grandchild George J. Vander Heiden and brother-in-law Wayne Hietpas.
A funeral mass to celebrate Rita’s life will be held at St. John Nepomucene Catholic Church, 323 S. Pine St., Little Chute on Saturday, February 29, 2020 at 11:00 am. Visitation will be held at the church from 9:00 am until the time of the mass. In lieu of flowers a memorial is being established.
Rita touched all in her life with her thoughtful and compassionate spirit. She has demonstrated the power of kindness through the amazing life that she has lived, and has inspired many of us to be better people along the way. We will be eternally grateful. You will be deeply missed, fondly remembered, and loved always. Rest in peace, Mom.
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