Rita Haddow was an inspirational leader, a devoted wife and mother, and a generous supporter of the many causes she held dear. A stalwart of the Detroit Jewish community, Rita passed away on March 13, leaving a long legacy of philanthropy and service. She was 93.
Rita was born in Detroit, the second child of Irwin I. and Sadie Cohn, community leaders in their own right. Growing up, she went to Winterhalter Elementary School, Durfee Junior High, and Central High School, graduating in 1944. She attended the University of Wisconsin and Wayne State University, where she studied drama and began a lifetime love of theater and the arts. She acted in college and during her adult life, appearing on the Michigan-based television show Divorce Court and in community theater productions at the Jewish Community Center.
Rita’s flair for acting made her a talented storyteller and public speaker who captivated audiences of all sizes with her entertaining tales and signature sense of humor. She had a gift of making whomever she was with at the time, whether family, friends or new acquaintances, feel like the most important person in the room. Her sense of humor, kindness, compassion, laughter and love enriched the lives of everyone who knew her.
In 1948, Rita married Jay M. Kogan, and together they had four children, manifesting their desire to help rebuild the Jewish population after the devastating losses of WWII.
They enjoyed dancing, travel and family celebrations, and, when their marriage ended in divorce, they maintained a close friendship.
On a trip to Spain with three of her children, Rita met John Haddow, an insurance industry executive living in New York City. Over the next year, she made many trips to Manhattan under the guise of shopping for a dining table. While she never found that table, she did find love, and Rita and John were married in 1971. She embraced John’s children, Jeff and Jack, and was happy to see her family grow once more. Together, they created a rich and fulfilling life, filled with service to the Jewish community, travel, and a love of creatures large and small. After spotting a white rhinoceros on a trip to Africa, Rita became passionate about collecting rhinos. From small table pieces to sculptures and larger works of art, her collection grew to include close to 1,000 rhinos in every imaginable size and material.
Rita always remained proud of her Detroit roots and was a fervent believer in giving back to her community. She was a member of Hadassah, National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), a board member of the Jewish Community Center (with a particular interest in the JET Theatre), a board member of JARC, a docent at the Detroit Zoological Society, and an active participant and contributor to The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit. She contributed significantly to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and said she would give anything to help find a cure for the disease that afflicted her grandson Josh and other children.
In 2019, she was honored as a recipient of Jewish Senior Life’s Eight over Eighty Tikkun Olam Award. In a video created for the award (https://youtu.be/68BjqYMoFmQ), she expressed her enthusiasm for serving the community that had given her so many opportunities.
The only thing that surpassed her dedication to her community was her devotion to her family.
Her sons and daughters remember their mother as “a constant champion and cheerleader who loved her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren passionately and unconditionally.”
Rita filled the household with stories, jokes and songs her children have since passed on to their own children and grandchildren. She sewed Halloween and Purim costumes by hand and created memorable characters like Susabelle Pridgett, head of the Clean Plate Club.
She enjoyed taking her children and grandchildren on adventures around town and across the world.
She emphasized the value of tzedakah, how giving back to others opened up a universe of possibilities. Although she was an inveterate collector, she loved nothing more than giving something away to someone she cared about.
According to her children, “Mom taught us how to laugh, how to cry, how the forgiveness of others opens your heart. She taught us to treat everyone with dignity and respect, regardless of the color of their skin, country of origin, gender, love preference or profession.”
Rita Haddow is survived by her children, Lauren (Marvin) Daitch, Amy (Steve) Coyer, Dr. Seth (Vicki) Kogan, Mark (Betsy) Kogan, Jeffrey (Miyako Yoshinaga) Haddow and John “Jack” (Nina) Haddow; brother, Judge Avern (Lois) Cohn; grandchildren, Rebecca (Ari Grief) Liss, Joshua (Dr. Claudine) Liss, Karen Daitch, Joshua (Erica) Daitch, Emily Kogan, Michael Kogan, Alexander Kogan, Benjamin Kogan, Eli Kogan, Barrett Haddow and Jordyn Haddow; great-grandchildren Liza Liss and Lev Liss, Spencer and Ayla Daitch. In her later years, Rita was supported by her devoted and loving caregiver Coral Washington and her precious pooch Violet.
Contributions in memory of Rita Haddow may be directed to Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, 24359 Northwestern Highway, Suite 125, Southfield, MI 48075,
(248) 355-1133, http://www.jdrf.org; Detroit Zoological Society, 8450 West 10 Mile Rd.,
Royal Oak, MI 48067, (248) 541-5717, http://www.detroitzoo.org; JARC, 6735 Telegraph Rd., Suite 100, Bloomfield Hills, MI 48301, (248) 940-2617, http://www.jarc.org or a charity of one’s choice.