Rita Catherine Tansey, a Toledo educator and supporter of the arts, died Wednesday morning surrounded by family in her West Toledo home. She was 76.
Mrs. Tansey was diagnosed with cancer, malignant melanoma of the nasal cavity, four years ago, said her husband, Pat.
“[The surgeons] thought they had it two or three times but it kept coming back,” he said.
Mrs. Tansey and her husband shared a love of the theater and they supported local theater groups such as the Maumee Civic Theater, the Toledo Repertoire Theatre, and the Village Players with their time, professional expertise, and money.
In fact, it was a theater group called Shakespeare Under the Stars at the Toledo Zoo that brought them together. Mr. Tansey was working on the technical crew for the production in 1956 when met.
“We had some trouble with the wiring and it was in a manhole under the ground. She had her nice clean clothes on and she came and climbed down and helped me solder wires together,” Mr. Tansey said.
That’s when he knew she was the girl he wanted to spend his life with. They married four years later in 1960.
Mrs. Tansey was born on June 25, 1937, in Owosso, Mich., to Frank and Florence Blazic. Her father was an iron worker and traveled around the country for work, “so they moved around a lot in the first 10 years of her life,” Mr. Tansey said.
The family settled in Toledo when her father was hired to work on a project repairing the former Owens-Illinois building downtown. Her mother was a homemaker who went back to school at the age of 45 and became a nurse at Mercy Hospital.
Mrs. Tansey graduated from St. Ursula Academy in 1955 and from the University of Toledo in 1957 with a teaching certificate. She later continued her education and earned a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s degree in guidance counseling.
She spent many years teaching in Catholic elementary schools, including St. Patrick’s of Heatherdowns, St. Anne’s, St. Rose of Perrysburg, St. Theresa’s, Regina Coeli, and Blessed Sacrament.
“It was remarkable to me whenever we would go out to a restaurant or wherever, someone would come up to her and say, ‘You may not remember me but you taught me in third grade or second grade,’ ” said her son Mark Tansey.
Mrs. Tansey was also a talented writer, and she left teaching in the middle of her career to pursue a job that would let her express her creativity, said her son. She started working at a small advertising agency, Total Media, and then became a senior account executive at Fahlgren and Ferris.
She was very proud of a marketing campaign that she developed for the Chamber of Commerce, called “Toledo Alive,” her son said. According to a Blade article from Nov. 5, 1982, the community image campaign was designed to accelerate economic development in Toledo, with a new theme, logos, advertising, a slide show, and brochures.
She later became vice president of public relations and advertising for Gladieux Corp.
After she retired, Ms. Tansey remained active and volunteered for many organizations including Women Blessing Women and Mom’s House. Her favorite activity, however, was spending time with her grandchildren.
“She made everyone around her better. She was a great listener, and I think that’s why the grandchildren wanted to be around her,” her son said.
Starting in 1997, Mr. and Mrs. Tansey began taking their grandchildren, one at a time, on trips overseas.
“We thought that rather than have our kids inherit a sum of money and buy a Mustang, we would have these experiences with them, and it has turned out to be a wonderful thing,” Mrs. Tansey said in a 2006 Blade article.
“Going places has never been the point,” she added. “It has been getting to know each of these children separately, as individuals.”
Surviving are her husband Patrick Tansey; sons Patrick, Chris, and Mark; daughter Sheila; brother David Blazic; sister Betsy Micek, and 13 grandchildren.
Visitation will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday and from 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday in the Walker Funeral Home, 5155 Sylvania Ave. A prayer service will be at 9 a.m Monday in the funeral home.
The funeral will begin at 10 a.m. Monday at Gesu Catholic Church, 2049 Parkside Blvd.
The family suggests tributes to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and Hospice of Northwest Ohio.
Contact Marlene Harris-Taylor Marlene Harris-Taylor at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6091.
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