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Rita Mae Ertl

Dec 22, 1939 - Jun 04, 2022


Rita Mae Ertl (nee Petrie, a.k.a. “Teach”) passed away quietly at the age of 82 on Saturday, June 4th surrounded and held by several family members and friends. Rita was the oldest of the famous “Petrie Dozen” from Sheboygan Falls, daughter of Bertha and Irving.

Nothing was ever wasted in a family of 12, and Rita’s penchant for finding hidden treasures and “things with potential” persisted throughout her life. Lovely things were alive to her, and if they weren’t lovely when she found them, she made them so. Almost every member of the family has at least one cardboard box decorated with a collage of pretty pictures from old magazines, calendars, and greeting cards. Even her cobwebs were transformed with a dusting of glitter. She made everything sparkle.

Rita’s ability to see “inner beauty” extended to people. She never judged a book by its cover and gave everyone, including perfect strangers, the benefit of the doubt. As a result, she was surrounded by a truly unique group of friends, from the long-haired and befeathered members of “Canada’s All-Indian Band” the Chieftones to devout churchgoers and lonely singles … and whoever her younger siblings (and later daughters) happened to drag in from the cold. Her heart and hearth were always open.

Rita spent several of her school years at a Catholic convent in St. Francis, WI. Unbeknownst to her at the time, her future husband, Andrew Ertl, was spending his time at a seminary in Fond du Lac, WI, studying to be a priest. Had fate not intervened, Rita and Andrew’s two daughters, Kristyn and Jessica, would not have entered this world, nor would their five beautiful grandchildren, Isabella, Andrew, Evelyn, Alice, and Liam.

Rita transitioned from potential nun to beloved schoolteacher, a career she maintained in one form or another until retirement. Even after retirement, she continued to volunteer at elementary schools to “keep herself young.” She loved creating games, projects, and bulletin boards that were both fun and educational – no boring “pictures of the presidents” for her. To keep her own mind sharp and spirit content, Rita enjoyed crosswords and word searches, jigsaw puzzles, coloring books, and rousing games of Scrabble and Yahtzee with whoever she could coax into playing. Her perfect penmanship was legendary.

Nurturing came naturally to Rita, whether it was children, houseplants, a garden, or pets. She loved waking up with a bunch of sleeping cats (or grandkids) on her bed. She was a great listener, and always ready with a warm, perfumed hug. Though not a fan of cooking, she did love to bake, and sing old movie songs while doing so – her favorites were from West Side Story and the Sound of Music. Sometimes “dinner” was a big bowl of corn popped in bacon grease. On the best days, it was her homemade chicken soup and a dessert made with rhubarb from the garden. She had an entire room devoted to sewing, with mounds of clothes to mend, Butterick patterns, and plenty of polyester double knit for pants.

Rita loved being outdoors and supplied the local birds, butterflies, and squirrels with plentiful food all year long. Her arms were always brown in the summertime from hanging clothes on the clothesline. She marveled at the fall colors every year and had fond memories of ice skating with her siblings in a neighbor’s field when she was growing up. She adored all spring flowers – tulips, daffodils, fragrant hyacinths, lilies of the valley, and the blue carpet made by stars of Holland before the grass takes over. Christmas was treasured, as it afforded her the opportunity to spend time with her large and gregarious family, wear sparkly things, and stay “until the last dog was hung.” She was very much like her mother in that regard: She didn’t want to miss out on anything! Rita loved taking trips with her siblings to “see the sights” (and maybe hit a garage sale or five).

Rita joins her mother and father (Bertha and Irving), husband (Andy), daughter (Jessica), brothers (Tony (“Buddy”) and Adrian), and sister (Marlene) in the starry heavens, carried by birds and butterflies and lifted by the love of all who knew her. She is survived by her sisters Mary Ann, Karen, Bonnie, Donna, Maureen, and Darla, brothers Daniel and Dennis, and her daughter Kristyn.

Arrangements for her cremation have been made by the funeral home. Visitation will be held at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church, 818 Huron Ave., Sheboygan on Thursday, June 9, starting at 11:00 a.m. until the time of Mass at 12 noon. Fr. Norberto Sandoval will officiate. Online condolences may be expressed at


Date: Thursday Jun 9, 2022
Time: 11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. noon
Location: Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church [map]

Mass of Christian Burial

Date: Thursday Jun 9, 2022
Time: 12:00 p.m.
Location: Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church [map]



Guestbook Entries SIGN GUESTBOOK

Lauri Moegenburg

Dear Family, Your mother was a treasure. Rest well knowing that this dear lady helped so many children over the years. You are all in my thoughts and prayers at this sad time.

Barbara Horneck

What a beautiful tribute to Rita. She was exactly as you describe her……kind and gentle and had a gift for working with children. As a Foster Grandma at Longfellow, the students loved her and she loved them in return. Always a smile and kind word for everyone. She will be missed.

Tanya Turgeon

I heard soo many good things about this wonderful woman. I work with her granddaughters and let me say, she helped raise her granddaughters to be strong and independent woman. I may have never had the pleasure of meeting this spectacular woman but I have the chance to learn more about her with her granddaughters. My heart goes out to my 2 friends Evelyn and Bella and their family.. XOXOXOXOXO

mark a stevens

I remember Rita when she taught school at St. Mary's. She was a kind, gentle woman. My condolences to the family.

Betty Steil

Beautiful Obituary for a beautiful lady. I met her when we were "nursing Mothers" for her first daughter and my only daughter. She was always an inspiration for me. I truely loved her. Rest in peace Rita. Betty Steil

Pat Wojcik

Oh how sorry I am to see this today. Rita, your family wrote one of the most loving, humorous and truthful obituary I have ever read. They described you beautifully. I can still picture you on the left wing at Holy Name with your both your daughters and husband. You could see the love and pride you had for your family. When I think of the title Mother you certainly earned and deserved it. May you find joy and happiness as you join your husband and daughter. You have left a legacy or should I say legend for your family. You family was truly blessed to have you. Pat

David & Laurie Hartmann

She was such a special lady. We knew her through Holy Name and the school. She will be missed. So sorry for your loss.

Holly Hansen-Grotbeck

I first met Mrs. Ertl when I visited the learning center at Holy Name School as a student. She was always so welcoming and kind, and thought most everything was a treasure. When I saw her again many years later as a volunteer at Longfellow School, things had not changed! It was wonderful to see her friendly face. This was a truly lovely tribute to her, and I enjoyed learning more about her life.; Deepest condolences to her family, especially Kristyn and her grandchildren.

Charles G Paul

I am going to miss her so much. It was always so nice to be with her when we went places. Always looking on the bright side of things. God will have a wonderful place for her in heaven. Wishing the family and the grand kids all the best.

Tina and Mutope Johnson

From the stories that Kristyn would tell us at work about her Mom, it sounds like she lived a full, joy-filled life. Sending love and prayers to the Ertl family and hoping you will find strength in these dark times and happiness in the lifetime of memories she left. Tina and Mutope Johnson

John H Payne

So sorry to hear of your loss. I remember the Petrie family very well and Rita's mother was my cub scout leader about 65 years ago. She will be in my prayers

Lou Ann Van Wyk

I had the privilege of working side by side with Rita at Longfellow School for many years. She was our 3rd grade team’s Foster Grandma, colleague, and friend. She was a life long learner, seeking to understand new curriculum (or crazy math as she called it) and technology to better help our students. She left personal notes of encouragement on their papers and hand picked stickers to match each individual personality. Rita was my personal cheerleader with her kind words . We were going to retire together, but she wasn’t ready to hang up her teacher hat. We were blessed to be touched by her smile, positivity, energy, sense of humor, and love. Thank you for sharing your gifts and talents with us Grandma Rita!

Charlie and Jackie Gruenke

My Fourth Graders loved going to the School Library where 'Mrs. Ertl' had prepared colorful reading lessons specific to the skills they most needed and they enjoyed every holy card, rosary, blessed medal and award that they could earn through Rita's generosity and love for children! As a fellow staff member we loved Rita and know that she is brightening a corner of Heaven with her smile! Her obituary is stunning!

Barbara Umbaugh

Rest in peace sweet lady.

Dawn Ford

Rita was always smiling when I saw her at Longfellow. She faithfully served our students giving them love and academic support. Thank you, Rita for your dedicated service to our children