The Name

Upon returning from Trinidad after evaluating the boat in July, and agreeing on price and terms with the former owners, Anna Marie and I started to get serious about selecting a name. We had engaged in numerous discussions about the name in the past, but they were oftentimes not completely serious as we thought we had time. I believe the first one I came up with was 401 Ok. We also came up with Moonstruck, Outta Here, No Mas, and TBD. During some of our more recent discussions, we were trying to come up with a Hawaiian name as we both loved the language. We were toying with Ha’alele which means; “depart, desert, give up, go out, leave, quit, resign, withdraw”, according to Glosbe Hawaiian Dictionary. We also were toying with Pau Hanna which means “Done Working” according to a Hawaiian resident we are most fond of – my daughter Kristin.

However, now that we really thought we had to put this task behind us, and arrive at a name that we both loved and was easy to verbalize on the VHF, we agreed on Rita, after my Mom and Anna Marie’s Aunt.

My Mom passed away February 9, 2016 and it couldn’t be more appropriate to honor her life by naming the boat after her.

My Sister Joanne, Mom, Paul, and my Brother Kevin (L-R)

My Mom was a selfless woman who cared only for the well being of her children. She devoted her life to our happiness and she is responsible for everything I am and have become in this life. I wouldn’t be where I am in this world without her love, devotion, hard work, numerous teachings, and the selfless way she lived her life.

Mom wasn’t dealt a great hand. She lost my Dad at the age of 40. However, she never complained. She accepted God’s wishes for her, and took on the task of raising her three children as best she could. She never remarried as her focus was on us, and she did one hell of a great job. There would be no boat without her! It is only right and just to give her, her due.

When Paul’s mom Rita passed, it came naturally, “Rita” was a great boat name. You see, we had two special Rita’s in our lives. I had the pleasure of knowing Paul’s mom, but he never met my Aunt Rita, though he’s certainly heard the endless stories… So let me introduce my Zia Rita to you. This is the eulogy I read at my Zia Rita’s funeral on October 2, 2002.

Always well-manicured and dressed to the nines, well-perfumed and a penguin pin on her lapel, I clearly remember her scent and warm bosom that she smothered me into whenever I was within reach. Rita Dix was a woman who never had children, but was a mother to many. Even one of Uncle Jack’s pet names for her was “little mommy”. She was and meant so much to so many. She was an aunt, neighbor, colleague, God-mother, sister, babysitter, friend, confidant, great-aunt, and of course, loving wife. She was pure of heart and secure in her faith as few are or remain to be, especially through the last ounce of suffering. She was eternally praying for blessings for her loved ones. Our Zia Rita was however a woman of not only great integrity, but of great recipes.

Her Crepe Suzette were the best.

Those of us blessed enough to share both her life and her culinary talents will never forget either of them. The endless recipes and vivid descriptions of meals she had planned for upcoming events, and the infinite, unconditional, altruistic love she shared and gave willingly, were often inseparable. Even during her last days of this long 10-year battle she was most concerned about 2 things, one being: her inconveniencing others on her behalf and two: the suffering she’d encounter eating hospital food. To her, this was much worse than any side-effects radiation treatment could give her. Not even during the toughest of times, could her refined palate, her sense of humor, and her undying faith be extinguished.

Her work ethic was unmatched as was her love for life, belly laughing throughout it. Uncle Jack fondly remembers their frequent trips to the island of Ischia. They’ll be cherished memories for Andy and Mike as well. Andy remembers a time he was working at the restaurant and had to go looking for Rita. She was across the street at the old Merrill Lynch trading floor chatting with one of the brokers, a customer and friend. Andy found her only because he could hear her laughing even over the chaotic roar of the trading floor. Amy and Jay remember her exquisite knack for choosing the finest at any banquet table, particularly at their wedding. They added, “she was a people person and had everyone’s number.” This description of her strong instinct is what helped define her uniqueness. Even in her final moments, her instinct was to survive, get stronger, and recover yet again. A feminist before the word even existed, she went beyond life’s expectations and defined them. She had her own personal revolutions, peacefully and powerfully, moving mountains, people, and all she touched.

Michael reminded us of her history as a fighter and the origins of her fighting instinct. Zia Rita came into this world fighting for her life, as she went out of this world in the same manner. As an infant, her father, my grandfather, disobeyed the doctor’s strict orders NOT to feed her, because he believed only then could she get better. She survived a Nazi occupied Naples, Italy, shaking awake her deeply sleeping baby sister when it was time to run for cover and hide in dry-wells, waiting for the Germans to pass. Even her oncologist, Dr. Alcena had never had a patient who survived so long with such a severe form of cancer as Zia Rita had. In fact, at one point Zia Rita was programmed to be on the Dr.’s PBS medical program as the quintessential example of treatment success. Her treatment had been so successful that Zia Rita was able to live on and see her great niece and nephew brought into this world and enjoy many special occasions together. Through the loss of her physical presence, for many of us a lifeline to dear memories has been extinguished, but we need to cherish those words, memories and times she did give us and was able to share before leaving this world. As Deanna and Willie lost their last connection to their prematurely deceased mom and Zia Rita’s best friend, Licia, we have all lost so many detailed accounts that we are now going to be hard-pressed to remember in such detail and heart-felt, first-hand precision as our Zia did.

Though petite in stature she was amazingly large in spirit. She was hard to miss even if barely reaching five feet in heels. And even if she touched your life in the slightest of ways, it was also in the most profound. Rita Dix was a little piece of history that will continue to live on in each of us. Not only was her restaurant a landmark, but she has left landmarks on our hearts and souls as few before her. Her story is the one of success and her passing is the passing of her suffering, not the passing of the great woman we will always know and love. Therefore Zia Rita can never truly be dead in the conventional sense of the word, for she was anything but conventional.

How I will always remember her, with a beaming smile and reaching out to touch me.

So that was it. The boat was to be named, s/v Rita.

Then in August of 2016, tragedy befell our family. My daughter Kathryn committed suicide August 17.

Kathryn, my Daughter Kristin, and Myself (L-R)

Kathryn was a fourth year medical student at Mount Sinai. She had suffered from depression since her early 20’s and decided she wasn’t willing to deal with the pain any longer. Obviously, she was suffering more than any of us could begin to imagine, and I am comforted knowing she suffers no more.

Kathryn was an amazing person. She was immensely intelligent, had a heart of gold that she wore on her sleeve, incredibly observant, fiercely competitive and loyal, quick to dish out a humorous quip, and also selfless and very giving. It was no surprise to anyone that she chose medicine as a goal.

We miss her dearly, but know that it is only a matter of time before we are joined again.

Until then, we shall sail and care for a boat that honors her name, with the same passion that Kathryn lived her life.

Grandma Rita and Kathryn

5 responses to “The Name”

  1. Your beautiful, heartfelt posting is something that I will never forget. Two strong women that left an everlasting impression. The eloquent words that you both used went straight to my heart. Without even meeting them, I got the feeling that I would have gravitated towards them. Thank you for sharing. ❤️ G-d bless you all!

    • Thank you Fern, and boy would I love to be at that table…if you were to all meet. You’re absolutely a kindred spirit. Sending you love.

  2. Wow… Thank you. I am in awe of your beautiful Ritas and your Kathryn— and the two of you. Wonderful to see you both— and awe-inspiring to read this. How wonderful to have these women with you every day, carrying you across the seas. xo

  3. What an emotional post ….. and what a lovely way to remember those who made such an impact on your lives. I love that your boat name has so much meaning and emotion behind it.

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