General Information

Full Name: Rita Grant Newman
Date of Death: Saturday, July 6, 2024

Rita Grant Newman

Age 96.

Born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Rita was from a family of very modest means. She excelled in academics, skipping 2-3 years in grade school. After attending the University of Wisconsin, based on her high GPA she was automatically accepted in to UW Medical School as one of only about 6 women in her medical school class. Advisers had tried steering her towards the traditional path for women into nursing. Fortunately for thousands of future patients, Rita’s aunt convinced her to apply to medical school. Then, as during the rest of her career, Rita was a pioneer for women in medicine who broke the glass ceiling. Rita earned her medical degree and for decades was the youngest graduate of UW Medical School due to the accelerated program that had started during WW II and her advancement during grade school.

After graduation, eager to leave the cold of Wisconsin, she became one of the first female anesthesiologists having done her residency at Mt. Sinai in NYC. Rita met her future husband, Leonard, on a date while he was a law student. They became engaged and married in 1955. Their 69th anniversary was only weeks ago. As Lenny acknowledges, the marriage began his transfer in a life of assisted living; first his mother and then his wife.

Rita began her career at what was then a newly opened hospital in Pompton Plains, Chilton Memorial. She became chief of the department which she built by recruiting only board certified anesthesiologists. At that time, board certification, which Rita earned, was not as common or required as it is today. It required significant time and effort to achieve. This drive for excellence was a hallmark of Rita’s career. She remained chairman of the anesthesiology department for decades and retired after 41 years of medical practice. This event was notable for the only retirement party in memory thrown for a retiring doctor by the nursing and medical staff.

This party was reflective of her popularity among the staff. Rita ran “PIT” (princesses in training) classes for the OR nurses. There was also the physician vs. hospital baseball game. All of the male physicians were recruited to play in the game. Rita was not asked and she objected. They asked if she would play and she volunteered despite no experience with the game. Determined to succeed, and after some coaching on hitting and catching by Daniel, she showed up for the big game in Daniel’s little league uniform but unfortunately also in heels. After sneakers were provided, she was ready. The doctors were faring poorly with a few hits but no runs. At the bottom of the batting order Rita took the plate. Not liking the first pitch, she swung at the second pitch and drove the ball over the second baseman’s head landing herself at first base. Unfortunately, the rest of the team was hitless that inning. Rita was assigned first base in the next inning and managed to catch what was thrown to her, tag the runners, and play without error. Having made her point, she retired from the game. Whenever she put her mind to it, Rita would succeed in that endeavor.

Despite what was often a grueling work schedule, Rita was in charge of the household and took care of her family, she managed to cook dinner for her family almost every night. This was in addition to handling most of the business aspects of her medical practice by herself.

Rita and Len travelled extensively. Yearly family vacations at her beloved Cape Cod and various island trips were followed by world exploration after the boys were old enough to be at home with their grandparents. Starting in 1973 with a trip to Israel, they visited so many countries that they were running out of destinations. Often they rented a car with Rita driving and Len

Planning out the trip and navigating. They were fortunate to be able to vacation with dear friends such as the Gultz’s and Noethens.

Rita loved her sons and encouraged education and their careers. David followed in his mother’s footsteps and became an anesthesiologist. Dan, taking after his father’s aversion to blood, followed different pursuits.

Rita was a devoted grandmother to Mitchell and Eric. She and Lenny drove them to Montessori School every day with Rita assuring that apple juice was at the ready on their drive home.

Service Information

Tuesday, July 9, 2024
9:30 AM

Service At:
Pine Brook Jewish Center Cemetery
77 Windsor Dr., Pine Brook, NJ 07058


Get Directions to Louis Suburban Chapel


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