Rita (Kotajarvi) Patten, 75, of Gladstone and formerly of Munising passed away at U.P. Health Systems Marquette on Monday afternoon, August 9, 2021. The second of two daughters, she was born in Detroit, MI, to August and Emma Kotajarvi. Rita graduated from Southfield High School in 1964, and then worked at Michigan Bell in Detroit from 1964 until she gave birth to her son Mike Hazard in 1968. Then she worked at Multi-Elmac in Detroit in 1970, then at Gestetner in Detroit from 1970 to 1973. Next, she worked as a receptionist and executive secretary at Massachusetts Life Insurance Company in Flint from 1973 to 1974 until she and her son Mike moved to Wetmore in August 1974.
In Wetmore, Rita raised a vegetable garden and foraged for free wild food (berries, mushrooms, leeks, etc.) in the middle of a recession and double-digit inflation. From 1981 to 1984, she worked as a part-time rural carrier for the U.S. Post Office in Wetmore. And from 1977 until her retirement in 2005, she worked as a bus driver and then as a custodian at Munising Public Schools. Rita's gentle-hearted husband Harlow Patten passed away in Munising in 2015 after a brief battle with cancer. Four years later, to escape Munising's never-ending lake-effect snows, she moved to tropical Gladstone where she preferred raking oak leaves and acorns instead of shoveling 57 varieties of snow. She loved gardening, yardwork, berry picking, canning, cooking, and sewing. She loathed snow-shoveling. A heart attack on July 2 eventually led to Rita's failing heart in the ICU.
She is survived by her son Mike and two nieces and a nephew, and was preceded in death by her parents, her husband Harlow, and her sister Virginia.
Rita’s visitation will be on Monday, August 16, 2021 from 10:00 a.m. until 12:00 noon at Eden Lutheran Church in Munising. Pastor Ann Gonyea will conduct her funeral at 12:00 noon at the church. Interment will be at Maple Grove Cemetery.