A Family Funeral Home

Patricia J. "Patt" Reitsma

September 23, 1934 - November 7, 2018
Racine, WI



Thursday, November 15, 2018
9:30 AM to 11:00 AM CST
First Presbyterian Church
716 College Avenue
Racine, WI 53403


Thursday, November 15, 2018
11:00 AM CST
First Presbyterian Church
716 College Avenue
Racine, WI 53403


At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.

First Presbyterian Church
716 College Avenue
Racine, WI 53403

Life Story / Obituary


In as much as she gave, Patt Reitsma was loved abundantly and cherished in the hearts of many. A woman of faith, Patt lived a life full of many blessings. She was thankful for much and lived life completely and fully at every opportunity. Although she found pleasure in many things, the key to Patt’s heart was the love of family. Gone yet never to be forgotten, Patt will be forever remembered.

Although the year 1934 ushered in some of the worst times of the Great Depression, it was also a turning point for many after years of struggle. Newly elected President Franklin D. Roosevelt pledged to bring about recovery, and Shirley Temple lit up the movie screens. In the midst of these changing times in Racine, Wisconsin, Thomas Jarrett and Mary (Coon) Menefee Sr. were happy to announce the birth of their little girl, Patricia Jean “Patt”, born on September 23, 1934. Although born in Racine, Patt moved to Brooklyn, Iowa, at a very young age to live with her grandparents while her father took a job working on the road to Alaska, the Alcan Highway.

Patt spent her early childhood growing up in Brooklyn before returning to Racine where she was raised alongside her siblings, Tom, Judy and Dave. Patt’s father worked as a salesman while her mother was an administrative assistant for St. Mary’s Hospital. A young girl typical of her generation, Patt, along with her family, became a member of First Presbyterian Church in Racine where she remained a member for the next 65 years of her life. She attended the local schools and was quite active with Girl Scouts and Mariners. Sadly, when Patt was in high school, her father died in an auto accident, leaving her mother with four children to raise. Patt pursued her studies and graduated from Washington Park High School with the Class of 1952. Later, she attended modeling school and earned her secretarial certificate. An outgoing young woman, Patt was a friend of many.

After graduating and at the age of 17, Patt ventured to Washington, D.C. where she worked as a clerk for the FBI for a brief time before returning to Racine. She then went to work for the S.C. Johnson Company in the Great Work Room, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. While she worked for Johnson Wax, Patt frequently served as a model for the company magazine.

Patt met the love of her life, John C. Reitsma, a firefighter for the City of Racine, at a friend’s wedding where she was serving coffee. While John wasn’t even drinking coffee that night, he went back to the coffee serving table several times to meet the pretty brunette he was so taken with. The two began dating, and when Patt told John she was from Brooklyn, he thought he was dating a big-city girl from New York. He fell in love with her, even after discovering she really meant Brooklyn, Iowa, a town with fewer than 1,500 people.

Deeply in love, Patt and John were happily married on April 20, 1957 at First Presbyterian Church, and their wedding was the first to be celebrated in the original chapel. Patt continued to work at S.C. Johnson until she married, as married women were generally not allowed to work there back then. This gave Patt the opportunity to prepare for their first child, Dani, who came along in February 1958, and Mari followed shortly after in January 1959.

Patt made a wonderful home for John and their girls. She was an excellent seamstress and, for a time, did sewing for others in her home. She made many clothes for herself and her children. She also enjoyed doing needlepoint. Always very resourceful and creative, Patt was good at fixing things and improving things around the house. Although opinionated by nature, Patt had ways all her own for getting her point across. In fact, she even had a pillow that stated it perfectly: "I am not bossy, I just have better ideas." Just the same, Patt’s home was a welcome place for not only their friends and family, but for the kids’ friends, too. Everyone was welcome at her table, and she did so with open arms. Patt had a way of taking a houseful of kids in stride, and she loved and treated them as if they were her own.

When her daughters were in grade school, Patt went to work for Nelson Construction Company. She later moved on to Racine Hydraulics/Dana Corp. where she worked as an executive secretary for over 15 years. She then returned to S.C. Johnson as a secretary in the legal department for ten years before retiring in 1999. Later in life, Patt modeled in style shows hosted by Milaeger's.

Traveling was something Patt and John enjoyed. They went to Florida several times to visit John's brother, Ron, and his wife, Barbara. Though Patt refused to drive on the well-marked interstate for fear of getting lost, she nevertheless found her way to all the expensive shopping malls in the Ft. Lauderdale area without any problem! When Patt had her sights set on shopping, any blue-haired ladies driving in her lane had better get out of the way!

In addition, she and John enjoyed going to hear the Gaither Gospel groups when they visited the state, and together they often visited Nashville, Tennessee, to visit relatives and attend gospel concerts at Opryland. They also spent many summer and fall getaways at Little Bohemia in Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin. John once heard her comment, "If you've seen one tree, you've seen them all" when she tired of walking in the woods! For several years once retired, they went to Fence Lake for the retiree work week where they cleaned and fixed up the grounds for the regular season. Though not boat owners themselves, Patt and John were members of the Harbor Lite Yacht Club for many years where they often enjoyed Wednesday lunch and Friday dinners with friends.

Patt was very generous with her time, especially at church for many years. There she served as a deacon, elder, and clerk of session. She worked on a program for the homeless called the REST Program, and she decorated the church for special occasions. She volunteered in the church office frequently. Until the end, every Tuesday Patt could be found signing checks and organizing the kitchen after the Sunday coffee hour.

Music was Patt's passion. Her family has memories of singing with her and of her listening to folk music and old country gospel music. She sang in several choirs including the church choir, the Johnson Wax choir, and the Lighthouse Singers. She also sang solos for church services, weddings, and funerals, and was part of a choral group from St. Rita's Catholic Church performing an Easter program called "His Last Days." She also sang solos in a yearly variety show in Racine called the Cardiac Capers whose purpose was to raise money for St. Mary's Hospital.

A selfless woman in many ways, Patt was always a very, very generous gift-giver at Christmas and took a lot of time wrapping presents to make them beautiful. When her grandchildren were small, she surprised them one Christmas with a gift to Disneyland by buying a blank puzzle and writing on it, "We're Going to Disneyland!" Each grandchild was given a piece of the puzzle, and as they worked putting the pieces together, they discovered the wonderful surprise. So typical of Patt, she always remembered everyone’s birthdays and other special days.

Relaxing for Patt often meant also enjoying her drink of choice, Dewar’s scotch on the rocks, and sitting down to read a good murder mystery which she loved. She also loved detective shows, particularly Perry Mason and Murder She Wrote. She liked watching old westerns like Gunsmoke, The Riflemen and Bonanza on TV. Patt enjoyed collecting cookbooks, including those from America's Test Kitchens, and she liked trying new recipes. She subscribed to many magazines related to cooking.

A master of life hacks before there were "life hacks", Patt was a perfectionist to the core. She had all sizes and shapes of Tupperware except a two-car garage. Her creative side was clearly seen in everything she did, and her resourcefulness was something to be admired. As a woman of faith, she used her time and talents for the benefit of good. Through her thoughtful, kind heart, Patt was generous and accepted her grandchildren’s friends into her heart just as she had done with her own children. She adored her grandchildren and loved every opportunity she had with them. A devoted wife, mother, and grandmother who will be dearly missed, Patt’s memory lives on in the hearts of many.

Patricia Jean Reitsma, “Patt with two t’s”, age 84, passed away Wednesday, November 7, 2018, at Ascension All Saints Hospital. Surviving are her husband of 61 years, John; daughters, Dani Reitsma of Racine, Mari (Donald) Chevako of Milwaukee; six grandchildren, Isaac (Abby Ristow), Jordan, Lukas, and Nathan Chevako, ZoĆ« and Tieg Maryarski; siblings, Judy Wenscott and David Menefee; in-laws, Alice Menefee and Barbara Reitsma; nieces, nephews, other relatives and dear friends. In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by a brother, Thomas, and in-laws, Gail Menefee, Dean Wenscott, Richard Reitsma, Effie Reitsma, and Ronald Reitsma who recently passed away on October 21, 2018.

A Memorial Service will be held at the First Presbyterian Church, 716 College Avenue, Thursday, November 15, 2018, 11:00 AM with Reverend Jenny Gleichauf officiating. Relatives and friends may meet with the family prior to the service from 9:30-11:00 AM. In lieu of flowers, memorials to First Presbyterian Church have been suggested. Private interment will be held at a later date at Southern Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Town of Dover. To share a favorite memory or photo of Patt and to sign her online guest book, please visit www.lifestorynet.com. Her family is being served by Maresh-Meredith & Acklam Funeral Home-Racine.

Patt’s family wishes to extend a special thank you to all those who provided Patt’s care at Ascension All Saints Hospital including the Emergency Room staff, the third floor ICU nurses, the Comfort Care staff, Dr. Ansani, Dr. Owen, and Dr. Pagano.