Rita Rae Erdem

Rita Rae (Dement) Erdem

April 16, 1950 – August 15, 2020


Rita passed away from cancer at the Josie Harper Hospice House in Omaha.  She is survived by her beloved husband of 34 years, Gaffar.  Rita was preceded in death by her parents Vivian (Clutts) and Vern Dement.  Also surviving are brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law in Turkey, aunts, uncles, cousins, and many dear friends.  Rita will be laid to rest alongside her parents at Hills of Rest Cemetery in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Rita was born and raised in Sioux Falls.  She was a graduate of Washington High School and went on to attend the University of South Dakota-Vermillion where she earned her teaching degree.  She later earned her Master’s Degree in Urban Studies at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.  Rita taught 7th Grade Core and ESL students for over 35 years in the Omaha Public Schools.  Following her retirement, she was a regular substitute teacher for the ESL program.

Rita was interested in everything and everyone she met.  She generously gave of her time and talents frequently donating to various charities in the greater Omaha community such as Stephen Center, Salvation Army and Open Door Mission.  She was a past and the current president of Altrusa International of Omaha; a women’s community service organization, to which she was very devoted.  Rita also enjoyed attending Creighton volleyball and baseball games as well as the Omaha Symphony and Playhouse.  She also enjoyed traveling with her husband and volunteering at the Durham Museum.

Rita had a generous spirit and was always ready to help anyone in need.  She will be greatly missed by her husband and all those who had the privilege of knowing her.

In Lieu of flowers, memorials are suggested to Altrusa International of Omaha in care of the funeral home.



  • Jean Detloff Posted August 17, 2020 6:56 pm

    Rita was a truly a special lady . She always thought of helping others in need. We will miss you Rita and know all of us in Altrusa International of Omaha will remember you in our thoughts and prayers. We love you!

  • Michael Cluts Posted August 18, 2020 7:37 am

    Rita was one of my favorite cousins and we managed to stay in touch over the years. I will always have fond memories of times spent together over the years.

  • Marlene Sedlacek Posted August 18, 2020 10:10 am

    Rita was a wonderful lady. Everyone, who had contact with her, loved her. Aside from being kind and generous, she was giving of her time. Many of us benefited greatly . Our Altrusa group is in deep sadness at her passing. Such an asset that will be sorely missed. Sending my sympathy to her husband and extended family.

  • April Seaman Posted August 18, 2020 10:44 am

    Rita and I were Salvation Army “Adoptathon” partners. I promise to faithfully continue the tradition in her name. Rita will be missed by many for her generosity of spirit. She was the pal who checked in to make sure you were OK. Her devotion to Altrusa – and GIVING in general – was inspiring. We will remember her fondly.

  • Lynne and Doug Wragge Posted August 18, 2020 10:55 am

    Rita was always cheerful and ready for a good time. She was very generous to all and kind to everyone she met. Everyone who knew her will greatly miss her.

  • Dennis and Kay Hink Posted August 18, 2020 12:50 pm

    Rita was a great cousin. She and Mike, as we knew him, took many trips to Florida and we had great times together at some golf tournaments. She will be missed. Condolences to you Gaffar.

  • Linda Kohrs Posted August 18, 2020 2:13 pm

    Sending sincere sympathy to her husband Gaffar and all the members of Altrusa. She was such a sweet person and I enjoyed the times I spent with her while I was a member of Altrusa.

  • Linda Jensen Posted August 18, 2020 3:31 pm

    I met Rita when I was a member of Altrusa. She was a very generous and loving individual, and you could always count on her to be present at any Altrusa meetings/committees/fundraisers.
    I send my condolences to her husband and extended family. May she find peace and comfort in her eternal heavenly home. She will be missed !

  • Cheryl Sparks Posted August 18, 2020 9:03 pm

    Condolences to friends and family of Rita . Just saying her name brings a smile… Nothing better than knowing Rita was in the building – ready to save the day – subbing or testing or whatever was needed ! I always looked forward to laughing with her about the little things… and “losing our minds” together A truly, wonderful woman who touched so many … .

  • Bev Harbold Posted August 18, 2020 9:51 pm

    I am so sorry of hearing of Rita’s passing away. I always loved talking with Rita when ever I saw her in Altrusa Omaha Club events, conference and working with her in our Altrusa District Seven 2018 – 2020 Nominating Committee. We will miss Rita; and my thoughts and prayers are with her family and Omaha Club. ~ Governor Bev Harbold, Altrusa International District Seven

  • Shirley Nielsen Posted August 19, 2020 8:07 am

    Rite and I have been friends for over 40 years. We had such good times and lots of laughs together. My heart breaks that, .at least for now, that wonderful time has come to an end. She was always a good friend, a caring and compassionate lady. I remember, Mike, when she met you. She was so happy to have found you and to include you into her family. So sorry for your loss. I met Rita when we taught together at junior high school. I will miss her. Love you, Rita.

  • Michaela Reilly Posted August 19, 2020 9:25 am

    Rita and I both were substitute teachers for OPS, and we had many”gigs” together. I loved seeing her face down the hall, and her wonderful smile. It was good to laugh with her. She was such a patient teacher , colleague, and friend. Her loss will be felt by many. My condolences to her family and many friends.

  • Diana Byrd Posted August 19, 2020 6:02 pm

    I met Rita after her retirement when she worked as an ESL substitute for OPS. She was such an asset and always very patient and kind. She cared about our students and our staff, It was reassuring to know she was in our classrooms, whether for a day or two, or for a longer-term assignment. She was easy to get to know, and always friendly and generous. I’m so glad I got to know her these past several years. She will be missed as a colleague and as a friend.

  • Judy (Hoover) Donahue/Viola Hoover Posted August 19, 2020 6:49 pm

    We are very sorry about the loss of Rita. We have many fond memories of our old neighborhood. Our thoughts and prayers are with you at this difficult time.

  • Tom Robertson Posted August 20, 2020 6:46 am

    Rita exemplified professionalism, compassion and kindness every day she stepped foot in Lewis & Clark. Even after all of her years of service with OPS, she still had the fire within to help our ELL students. And that she did to an immeasurable degree.
    Her presence will still be felt by our staff and students as she truly was a member of the Trailblazer family. Mrs. Erdem reminded us daily of the nobility of the cause of educators.

  • Martha Lerner Posted August 20, 2020 6:40 pm

    Rita was a wonderful and kind friend. We go back to working together at Hale Middle School over 46 years ago. Then after she retired and I retired, I would bump into her at various schools where we both enjoyed subbing. Please accept my condolences. Her smile and kind sprit will be greatly missed.

  • Julie Maben Diril Posted August 20, 2020 11:03 pm

    Rita was such a kind lady. Her and her husband Gafar came to see me right away when my first husband passed away very suddenly. She will be missed. I send my sincere condolences to her wonderful husband Gafar. Julie and John.

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