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Rita Hildegard (Fedtke) Geisler

November 26, 1937 ~ June 25, 2023 (age 85) 85 Years Old


Rita Hildegard Geisler (nee Fedtke) was born in Kaliningrad (then Konigsberg, East Prussia), just before the most catastrophic war in history, on November 26th 1937. She died in Comox, June 25th, 2023, aged 85.

Rita spent her formative years as witness to the most unspeakable horrors that humans are capable of. Her mother had to put her in an orphanage for two years because she could not care for her. Though she was later brought home to be raised by her adoptive father with her three younger siblings, they were forced to flee their home when the Russians invaded, and they became refugees, eventually living in each of the occupied zones of Germany while her adoptive father remained in a Russian POW camp until 1947. During the course of their forced migration, it was her task as a 7 year old, to keep the family’s identify papers safe. Along the way her infant sister, Rosie, succumbed to the pneumonia, a loss which forever haunted Rita. She could not bare the sound of gunfire in movies, and responded to images of refugees fleeing war-torn regions like Vietnam and Syria with tears because, said, “I know what that feels like.”

Rita’s schooling was interrupted by the war, but she always loved learning, and was disappointed when her family required her to leave school at age 14 to take up an apprenticeship in a large store’s millinery department. She learned about milling and weaving, about fabrics and salesmanship, and she was chosen for training as a manager. Instead she informed her boss and family that she would marry Walter Geisler, a member of the Canadian Air Force stationed in France at the time. They met and “fell in love at first sight” when Walter visited Germany to attend the wedding of a distant cousin to one of Rita’s cousins. He had to get permission to marry an “enemy alien” and after two weddings (one civil, one church wedding held a month later), they boarded the Queen Elizabeth II with the motorcycle Walter had built, disembarking in Montreal before riding across Canada to be introduced to Walter’s family in British Columbia. Her greatest delight was to stop after a long hot ride on the back of the motorcycle to enjoy a 10-cent ice cream cone from Dairy Queen.

As a military wife, Rita had to frequently organize cross-country moves at very short notice – Montreal, Trenton, Comox, Kingston, Ottawa, Cornwall – each time she managed to create a warm and inviting home, plant a new garden, develop new friendships while always maintaining the old ones. She had a gift for making people feel seen and appreciated. She learned English, eagerly embraced opportunities for evening studies after busy days cooking, cleaning and sewing for her family, which eventually grew to include 3 children. She studied alongside Walter late every night at the kitchen table after the children were asleep – her high school equivalency, agriculture, and finally book keeping, graduating from college the same year her youngest son, Michael did.

Rita worked for several years in an insurance office, and then as a medical secretary. She never slowed down, even when crippled by arthritis that required her knees to be replaced several times. She was an active member of the United Church of Canada, and after retirement, sang in the choir and was an elder in St. George’s, Courtenay. For several decades she was active in the Women’s Institute, often acting as treasurer, and volunteered countless hours to fundraising bake sales and teas. Community mattered to her.

Despite being shaped by horrific events that unfolded around her during her childhood, she carried a kindness and acceptance of others with her for her entire life. She was predeceased by her mother,Hildegard, father Paul, stepfather Horst, sister Rosie, and husband Walter. She is survived by her sisters Trauti and Gitti, her children Gerry, Moni and Michael, and by her beloved granddaughters, Natalie and Emma, who brought her so much joy.

Rita and Walter’s ashes will be interned together at the Courtenay Civic Cemetery. There will be no public service held.  Donations can be made to a charity of your choice in her memory if you wish.

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