Green Burial

Rita Rosso Haugh

Haugh, Rita

Rita Rosso Haugh, 96, died Wednesday, March 15, in Lawrence. She was born Nov. 11, 1920, in Minneapolis, Minn., the daughter of Dan Rosso and Paulina Peterson. She married Oscar Haugh on Dec. 20, 1947, in Minneapolis, Minn. and they moved to Lawrence in August 1950, where Oscar started teaching at KU.

She graduated from Edison High School in 1938, where she was editor of the yearbook. Her father, an Italian immigrant, had a third grade education, and her mother, a Swedish immigrant, an eighth grade education, but both emphasized the importance of school. Every Saturday and summers during high school and college, Rita worked in a Danish bakery in Minneapolis, gaining a reputation for her beautifully decorated cakes. She graduated with a degree in elementary education, with minors in art and geography, from the University of Minnesota in 1942. She taught fifth grade with nearly 50 students in the class in Lindbergh School in Dearborn, Michigan, and later taught fifth grade at the demonstration school at Wisconsin State in Superior. Oscar brought his university students to observe her teaching and was quickly smitten. Shortly after they married, she “retired” to become a housewife and mother. While Oscar finished his PhD dissertation from the University of Minnesota in the summer of 1950, she gave birth to their first child, also named Rita. In 1953, son Dan was born.

She enjoyed many university activities including basketball, football, plays, concerts, and lectures. She was active in many groups and organizations in Lawrence. As a parent, she was involved in PTA, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Luther League. As a university wife, she was an officer in Newcomer’s Club and University Women’s Club. She was a long-time member of Zodiac Club, which she hosted at Presbyterian Manor twice in the last two years; she helped plan Zodiac’s 120th anniversary in 1997. She was the last surviving founder of the Endacott Society, the KU Retiree’s Club, where she particularly enjoyed the Gardening Group, Ten O’Clock Scholars, birthday parties and potluck dinners.
Much of her time and effort served Trinity Lutheran Church, where food was often the focus: she helped with Fellowship Hour between services, more than 32 years of preparing funeral meals, the Advent Brunch, several smorgasbords. In 1967 she was elected the first woman to serve on the Church Council, when the congregation was 100 years old. She was also lector, communion helper, worked in Altar Care, and was a president of the Lutheran women’s group, and was the first woman on the property committee, where she led the work on renovating the upstairs kitchen. She was chair and a member of Christian Education, worked in Vacation Bible School and taught Sunday school.

She was an early member and president of the Jayhawk Audubon Society and enjoyed early morning treks to see birds in Kansas and everywhere she traveled. She was also an avid gardener. During 23 years of living at Sprague Apartments on the edge of the KU campus, she planted trees, flowers, and a flourishing vegetable garden. She appeared on Jayni’s Kitchen cooking show in 2008, sharing Swedish foods for Christmas.
She and Oscar enjoyed traveling the USA and the world. They spent many Augusts in Minnesota visiting extended family. In 1960-61 they were part of the KU group that went to help the University of Costa Rica for two summers. While Oscar set up the English as a Second Language program, Rita provided social gatherings and dinner parties several times a week so that the Costa Ricans and Americans could gather in a relaxed setting. Before going to Costa Rica, she studied Spanish and was quite capable in conversing in Spanish. In college, she had studied Swedish, her first language, spoken with her mother, and later in life studied Italian. Both languages were beneficial when they went to Sweden to visit relatives and when they went to Italy to search for her father’s family. Beyond that, they traveled yearly to visit her sister in Acapulco, Mexico, to England to visit author’s homes, and to Japan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and more than 10 trips to Europe including Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sicily, Greece, and all the US states except Alaska. She took a week-long ocean cruise on Allure of the Seas for her 90th birthday with her daughter and family.

Survivors include daughter Rita (Bill Oates) of Coral Gables, FL, son Dan (Jay) of Lawrence; grandchildren Elizabeth Oates (Paul Ochoa), Daniel Oates, Alden Haugh and Emily Haugh; her sister, Laura Rosso; nieces and nephews in Minnesota, North Carolina, California, and Hawaii; and Janne Skold and Eva Sodling, cousins in Sweden, and their children and grandchildren. She was preceded in death by husband Oscar, brother Paul, sisters Melba and Elizabeth, and a nephew.

Visitation will be from 3 to 5 pm Friday, March 17, at Warren-McElwain Mortuary in Lawrence. Funeral services will be at 11 am Saturday, March 18, at Trinity Lutheran Church, 1245 New Hampshire St. and a reception will follow in the church social hall. Private inurnment services will be held at Pioneer Cemetery.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Oscar and Rita Haugh Telecommunications Classroom at the KU School of Education through the KU Endowment Association; to Trinity Lutheran Church; or to the Endacott Society through the KU Alumni Association and may be sent in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary.


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  • Dan Haugh says:

    To all my family, I can feel your sadness losing Grammy, but know that the joy she brought so far outweighs sadness. The equation will never balance, joy wins hands down :-)

  • Leslie Lawton Talmon says:

    Rita and Dan
    Your Mom was and is such a bright light! She was always my Moms good friend and my Girl Scout leader. She always had a smile and a giggle and a listening ear. Our moms went on to their next assignment within days of each other. Our love to you both. It’s hard, but we were blessed with them for 95 blessed years.❤❤️
    Ted & Leslie Talmon

  • David Holroyd says:

    I learned today of Rita’s passing as I have been away from Lawrence since last fall.

    Oscar Haugh was my advisor and KU and he and Rita even after I graduated (at Oscar’s persistence) both sent me birthday cards. What a wonderful couple. After the moved to Sprague Apartments I was invited many times for dinner with both and after Oscar passed away, Rita would invite me for lunch and dinner as well.

    Rita had coveted tickets to the KU basketball games and shared them with me as she did with others. But often we would go together. I recall one game where the 2nd half was in session and I asked Rita when the next two quarters would come up.

    She looked at me with that smile and said: “the game is almost over”. For some time we laughed about that.

    When she moved to Presbyterian Manor I would stop by to see her but she delighted in letting me know when the Reuben sandwhiches were on the menu. A big hit they were. She invited me to picnics at the Manor.

    She and Oscar were the perfect example of University couples who kept in touch with the former students.

    I was just plain lucky!

    The photo of Rita is the best! The red lipstick was her trademark and she could wear it with class.

    Rita, Dan and your families, your mother was like an aunt to me and a mother after mine passed away.

    Dan is correct: “joy wins hands down”.

  • Clenece Hills says:

    Rita and Oscar Haugh were my first friends at KU. When I transferred from K-State and began my junior year, it was Dr. Haugh who led me through enrollment, guided me through two degrees, and made me feel like I could do anything. But it was Rita who made sure that I never felt left out and she recognized how hard it was to be a junior in a school where everyone seemed to already know everyone else. When I met Jim and learned that Dr. Haugh was also his adviser, we knew there must be a good reason for us to be together. On Christmas Day at 4:30 in 1962, Oscar and Rita Haugh along with Rita and Dan came to our wedding at Trinity Episcopal Church. What a generous loving gesture. Since meeting them in 1958, they have never stopped influencing my life. I am so grateful to have felt their generous spirits, their wicked senses of humor, and to have observed their modeling of a model marriage. I am sad Rita has left us, but I am oh so happy for Oscar who has been waiting for her these past 17+ years. Heaven has gained. Jim and I will remember Oscar and Rita forever. Thank you. Thank you.

  • Alfreda J. Pinkston says:

    My Dear Rita,
    The warmth of your charming mother flows through you. Your gentle kindness was there the day I met you. Thanks for sharing the story of the Gigantic Mother who left so many “Precious Memories”
    Trusting for you that as times takes its twists and turns you will come to a place where things mellow out and her Spirit continues to gently flow through you.
    With love,

  • Vicki Julian says:

    I am so sorry to hear of Rita’s passing, but I know she is happy to be with Oscar again. She was a lovely person and they were a wonderful and loving couple. We at TLC will miss her. Love and prayers to and for the family.

  • Bonnie Meeder says:

    Rita, Bill and all family,

    I am saddened to learn of Rita’s passing. She was a charming and wise woman. There is so much to celebrate about her life, and I’m sure warm memories of her will soon replace today’s grief. May the peace of the Lord be with you.


  • James Nelick says:

    Dan and family:

    Mrs. Haugh was such a kind and optimistic woman. You are in my thoughts.

  • Ron and Joyce Wolf says:

    We first met Rita when she graciously hosted planning meetings for an anniversary dinner for Jayhawk Audubon Society. Rita was a wonderful person and will be remembered fondly by all who had the great fortune to be called her friend. May her family be comforted in the knowledge that many friends are keeping them in our thoughts and prayers.

  • Eric Daigh says:

    My thoughts and prayers go out to all of Rita’s family. She was such a sweetheart, and in all the years I knew her through Trinity Lutheran Church, I always saw her with a smile on her face and never heard her say a bad word about anyone. If memory serves me correctly, she either organized or was heavily involved in the funeral luncheon after my Mom’s service in 2004. Sadly, that would have been the last time I saw her. But she was just as sweet and compassionate then as she was during the years I attended Trinity while growing up. Rita and Oscar were two in a million and I feel blessed to have known them both. Heaven is definitely gaining another angel.

  • Mary Lemesany says:

    Dan and Jay,
    Just saw that your Mom has passed away. So sorry. She was a very gracious women.

  • Larry Tenopir says:

    So very sorry to just learn of Rita’s passing. I’ve been thinking of her lately and just sent a card a couple weeks ago. Will miss her.