It's been said that we are where our thoughts have taken us, and we are the architects of our future. One of the most shining examples is 85-year-young, Rita Litz, with whom I recently spent an engaging afternoon. "My life has been filled with joyful moments and wonderful experiences," said Rita, as she ushered me about her "fairyland" home. We strolled into her favorite area, a glass enclosed courtyard complete with fountain and mini fireplace.
Nestled beneath the sunshine, the Chicago Teachers College graduate, holding a master's degree in education and psychology, began the story of her life. To these degrees she easily added another: the art of living. There was probably never an idea born in her head that Rita did not march into reality. She obviously holds the magic key given to us years ago by Goethe: "Only begin and then the mind grows heated; only begin and the task is completed."
Upon graduation, Rita taught physical education and health in Chicago's public school system. The young beauty quickly added personal development and self-improvement to her students' curriculum. Her sparkling personality and vitality led her easily into the roles of commentator, authoress, health and beauty expert and renowned model. You might say it all began on the high school basketball court. Rita recalled the time which might be termed her "hour of discovery."
"I was playing basketball one day when a woman stopped by the school looking for a model for her very elegant shop. I was tall, lean and energetic, and when she offered me the opportunity, I quickly accepted. She became my mentor, taking me under her wing and coaching me. She built a little runway in her shop where we held weekly shows, and I was able to pull it off!"
Rita not only pulled it off, she saved enough money to attend Chicago's premier modeling school and became one of their prized teachers. She developed into a highly recognized model, sought after by multiple advertising agencies and was featured in advertisements for a multitude of companies.
In 1943 she married Harry Riesman, the man with whom she enjoyed 44 happy years. She and Harry had one daughter, Pamela, who often accompanied Rita and even assisted in many of her assignments. "She was the light of my life, and I think the experiences we shared were great for her character development," said Rita.
A successful career woman and mother, Rita also found time for philanthropic pursuits. As president of the North Shore League of Women for eight years, she was honored with the Servian Award for her work for cancer research. She produced, directed and coordinated outstanding programs throughout her tenure. As owner of her own cosmetic company, she donated makeup and brought members of the Mannequin Guild to instruct patients at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. "One of the best times I had was my TV show on Chicago's WCN, 'On the Avenue.' I gave beauty tips and fashion suggestions," said Rita.
Rita was also an avid athlete, once again excelling. She loved tennis, was an excellent horsewoman, was agile in snow and water skiing, and ice skating. She produced a "Fashions on Ice Show" in which she commentated and skated. There was one sport, however, which tested her patience and threw her a tricky curve.
"I strolled onto a nine-hole golf course, thinking I'd be able to play golf as well as I had other sports. I could not get the ball airborne, and when I finally did, it hit a tin roof!" said Rita. "It was devastating, so I was determined to conquer this game. A neighborhood pro decided I had potential, and coached me. I took a youth chair and made a little cart which held my clubs, Pamela and snacks for her underneath the seat.
Rita let nothing interfere with lofting that little white ball correctly. "My husband complained I played nine days a week and knew every blade of grass on courses within a hundred miles, but did not know if there was sugar in the cabinet."
Rita's determination eventually rewarded her with an 11 handicap and many trophies which adorn her lovely Moss Creek home. "I had the opportunity to play with Nancy Lopez in a pro-am," Rita recalled. "It was wonderful! There are so many charming people in the golf world." Once I produced a PGA show entitled 'Fairladies of the Fairways' at the McCormick Place in Chicago. I had the honor of introducing many pros when they visited for tournaments or clinics. Lee Trevino was adorable, and Jack Nicklaus was interesting, but my favorite was Arnold Palmer."
Rita's husband passed away in 1987. In 1991, she remarried Eli Litz, and they enjoyed two years together before his untimely death. An old friend of Rita's encouraged her to visit Hilton Head Island, which she did and purchased a timeshare, enjoyed until her move into a permanent home in 1999. Rita jumped into the Moss Creek/Hilton Head community, playing golf on a regular basis and presenting entertaining programs, humorous skits and promoting many activities for charity. In her quieter moments, she jotted down intuitive thoughts on life. She grinned, "I wrote one a year for 22 years!"
She completed Reflections by Rita, an inspirational collection of thoughts on every subject imaginable including, of course, golf! "Golf is more than a game-an elusive and never-ending striving for perfection. It teaches humility even in the ecstasy of victory," she says in the book.
Knee replacement surgery and physical therapy are temporarily preventing Rita from golfing, but she says she's improving each day.
"I was old when young and now young while old," said Rita, with a hearty laugh. "I was blessed with three things: oily skin, being tall and nearsightedness, and if I live long enough I'll be even better!"