Rosemary Elizabeth (Baker) Metzdorff passed away peacefully on January 19, 2018 after a short illness, just 8 hours after the birth of her first great-grandchild. Unfortunately, the cruel disease of senile dementia, complications of which caused her death, prevented her from witnessing this wonderful occasion, and many others over the past few years. Her family takes some solace in the symmetry of these two events.
Rosemary was born June 1, 1926 to Albert and Elizabeth (Berryman) Baker and grew up in Racine, Wisconsin. Her father owned an office machine business in Racine which provided for the family through the Great Depression. She was a graduate of Washington Park High School and attended class reunions well into her later life.
A proud member of the “Greatest Generation,” Rosemary did her part to win WWII. While her brother Bob fought in Europe in the Infantry, and brother Deane became an Air Force bomber pilot, she worked at the Massey-Harris factory in Racine where M-5 tanks were manufactured. Not quite “Rosie the Riveter,” her work was clerical in nature but no less important to the war effort.
Toward the end of the war she attended and graduated from the University of Wisconsin and was a member of the Alpha Chi Omega Sorority. She remained a loyal UW supporter throughout her life, attending two Rose Bowls both of which the Badgers won. She and husband Terry were football season ticket holders of many years and loved attending games with a group of friends.
After college she worked for the YWCA in Janesville, Wisconsin and it was here that she met her husband Terrance J. (“Terry”) Metzdorff. Despite a subsequent transfer to Cleveland for Rosemary, the romance bloomed and they were married on August 15, 1953. They settled down in the town of Whitewater, Wisconsin where Terry began his career in accounting and business, and the couple began their family, which grew to include three children, Mark, Marsha and Bill. A pioneer in the concept of the working mother, Rosemary did bookkeeping for several firms in Whitewater as her children grew.
Rosemary and Terry loved living in a small town and were intimately ingrained in Whitewater life. Rosemary was a lifelong member of the Congregational Church of Whitewater, while Terry and the children attended St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, but there was frequent crossing of these boundaries as life progressed. Proximity of family made for rich holiday traditions with visits back and forth to brothers and sisters, and cousins growing up happily together. Rosemary and Terry were charter and long-time members of Whitewater Country Club and were both frequent champions of the annual tournaments held. They cultivated a large circle of friends, many of whom migrated annually at Spring Break to Gulf Shores, Alabama where everyone got a head start on the golf season and beach bonfires were a great occasion for sing-alongs of the old songs. Rosemary made sure that the family took the classic American road trip vacations east and west to learn about our country’s history and great natural beauty, and to attend several World’s Fairs. All three children were standouts at Whitewater High School and went on to great success in life thanks to the idyllic childhood provided by their parents.
Ever the restless, motivated woman of accomplishment, when the nest was emptied Rosemary went back to school at the local institution, the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, to get her teaching certificate and begin a second act in life as a high school Spanish teacher at Whitewater High. She taught for more than a decade before retiring with appreciative recognition and a nice pension. A great feature of her tenure there was organizing an annual summer trip for students to see the sights of Spain and practice their Spanish in its natural environment. Her interest in Spain and Spanish further prompted the organization of a family trip to Barcelona for the 1992 Summer Olympics.
Rosemary and Terry were stalwarts of the Walworth County Republican Party and the First Congressional District of Wisconsin. Although a swing seat through the child-rearing years, to Rosemary’s great pride and ultimate reward for hard work over many years, when Paul Ryan was elected it became a reliable Republican seat. Her service led to her appointment as an alternate Delegate to the Republican National Convention of 2000, and after her beloved George W. Bush was inaugurated and won the election, she attended the inauguration and one of the Inaugural Balls in Washington, DC. Her sense of patriotism and outrage following the events of 9/11 prompted her to make a pilgrimage to Ground Zero for the 5th anniversary observances in 2006.
After Terry passed away in 1996, Rosemary remained firmly rooted to the family home in Whitewater but continued to enjoy the attentions of her family, golf at Whitewater Country Club and the joys of travel. She remained remarkably and successfully independent in her home until September 2015 when a fall and subsequent treatment severely exacerbated what we now recognize was an underlying dementia. She moved to Belmont Village Memory Care in Carol Stream, Illinois, just 5 minutes from Marsha, and was very well-cared-for by the kind staff there for the duration of her life.
She was preceded in death by her husband Terry; a brother Donald who died in infancy, and her brothers Robert (Frances) Baker of Racine, Wisconsin, and Deane (Marilyn) Baker of Ann Arbor, Michigan. She is survived by her children Mark (Marie-Louise) Metzdorff of Tigard, Oregon, Marsha (Chad) Beste of Carol Stream, Illinois, and Bill (Susan) Metzdorff of Chicago, Illinois; grandchildren Alex Metzdorff, Tom (Alyssa) Beste, Sarah Beste, and Marissa Beste; newborn great-grandson Rowan Thomas Beste; nieces, nephews, other relatives, and friends.
Arrangements are being made by Nitardy Funeral Home of Whitewater, Wisconsin. Visitation will be on Monday January 29 at the First Congregational Church in Whitewater from 9 to 11 AM. A funeral service will follow at 11 AM with interment to follow the service at Hillside Cemetery. Memorials may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association of America or the UW Foundation.