American Veteran 09
Official Obituary of


November 5, 1924 ~ February 25, 2024 (age 99) 99 Years Old


Rita Elizabeth Davis was born two months prematurely on November 5, 1924 in Chicago, Illinois.

Her parents were Dominic and Anna Jenicek. She was so tiny that she fit into one of Dominic's cigar boxes. As an infant she endured internal measles. It was a miracle that she survived. This uncertain beginning created a unique and determined young woman who never lost her zest for life.

Both sets of her grandparents arrived in America from Czechoslovakia. The family tree on her father's side has been traced back to the 1600's by the family priest.

Rita was raised in the Czechoslovakian neighborhood of Chicago. She was the middle daughter with sister Emily being nine years older and sister Virginia being four years younger.

Her mother Anna's first cousin was George Halas, the famous manager of the Chicago Bears. His Czech name Hazlacek had been shortened to Halas. The love of football runs in the family and she watched her beloved SF 49ers every season.

During her years at Farragut High School, Rita worked as a sales clerk at Woolworth's Five and Dime for .35 cents an hour. She moved up to .45 cents an hour at the bakery where she closed the shop most days.

After graduating from high school in 1943, Western Electric hired her for a whopping .65 cents an hour. Later, she moved into banking as a check sorter.

On a romantic Christmas Eve of 1943 Rita became engaged to Joseph Pusateri, who she'd known since the 8th grade.

As the American effort in WW2 began in earnest, Rita followed Joe to San Diego where she worked for the US Navy soldering wires for radar equipment.

Joe enlisted in the Navy and in August of 1944 was shipped out on an aircraft carrier as a gunner and radioman to the islands of Layte. Tragically, the ship was hit by a kamikaze plane. Later that year, on a somber Christmas Day , Joe's close friend visited her, bringing her Joe's wartime diary. His last entry was the Lord's Prayer with a dedication to Rita. She never forgot his sacrifice for his country or what he meant to her.

Returning to Chicago, she took a secretarial position at Chicago Trust Company working for three attorneys at a salary of $150 per week. In her off hours, she became an avid ice skater on the frozen Chicago lakes. Rita loved watching figure skating and the Winter Olympics. Her four children saw every Disney On Ice show growing up.

She attended many Big Band concerts in her younger years. She loved telling everyone about seeing Sammy Kaye, Gene Krupa, Fred Waring, The Mills Brothers, Spike Jones and the Andrew Sisters. She danced to Lawrence Welk at his ballroom in Chicago. Rita loved the movies and saw each newsreel of the week along with a cartoon and vaudeville act. She was a fabulous singer and an active member in the Elk's Glee Club.

Most Americans today have never experienced rationing. During the War she recalled saving bacon grease and used foil balls. Sugar and gas were rationed and she received coupons for shoes. During the blackouts in the freezing winters of the 1930's and 1940's they baked potatoes outdoors in bonfires.

Rita was 21 years old when she enlisted in the Army. She served as a corporal in the Women's Army Corp from March of 1945 until October of 1946. After basic training, she went for four weeks of additional medical training. She was stationed at Bushnell General Military Hospital working in the amputee rehabilitation ward in Brigham, Utah. There she put in long 12 hour days from 7am to 7pm.

She couldn't speak about the harsh memories from her time there and would usually deflect to lighter stories. She remembered the Japanese and German prisoners of war that worked at the hospital-sweeping floors and various custodial work. There was one time when the German POW's went on strike to protest their working conditions and food rationing. But after being led up into the harsh mountains of Utah to a work camp in the freezing cold, they returned and ended their strike. She said the hospital felt as if it were two city blocks long, rising into the steep mountains of Utah.

In March of 1946, Rita met her future husband, William "Bill" Morgan Davis, Jr. in the care ward of Bushnell General. He was in a full body cast with mortar shrapnel throughout his body. Bill was a member of 517th Parachute Regiment Combat Team-1st battalion, A Company, 1st Platoon-known as the Battling Buzzards. He was a first sergeant, who had enlisted before the war and fought in several campaigns. He survived his last jump into the south of France but was wounded near Sospel by a mortar shell.

As Bill recovered their relationship grew. Eventually, the war ended and the hospital was closed.

They moved to the Presidio in San Francisco where they shared a three story flat with two other couples -the Ciampis and the Baileys. The six became lifelong friends.

Bill and Rita were wed on April 3, 1948 in a beautiful white wedding ceremony. Per Czech tradition, the bride received an apron, broom and dustpan to signify her new reality. The following year they were blessed with their only daughter, Karen. While pushing a baby carriage with one child around Washington Street was fun, they decided to move south to the Peninsula to raise their growing family when William "Bill" Jr. was born. David and Robert followed once they settled in San Mateo.

Rita was an avid letter writer, telling many funny stories. As she grew up with two sisters, raising three rambunctious little boys was a whole new experience for her. Her niece, Peggy, saved many letters from her Aunt Rita and was completely entertained by the overwhelming antics of her four children. Inspired by these stories in the letter, Peggy, an only child, went on to build a family of four children of her own.

Bill and Rita played dice and poker well into the night every weekend with the Ciampis and the Batters. The local parish priest, Father Mario, often joined them. As children we were kept awake by the shaking dice cup and the crash of the poker chips. We were startled awake around 2am by their best rendition of the Yale Song's refrain "We're poor little lambs who have lost our way, bah, bah, bah".

Rita was an accomplished bowler and played in a weekly league. Her lifetime high score of 260 was nearly close to a perfect game. She was a California State Champion in 1968. She loved sports, sports and more sports. She loved her SF 49ers, Golden State Warriors and SF Giants and enjoyed watching tennis and golf on television. She was a proud and cheering Nana at her grandchildren's athletic events as well.

Raising four children kept her busy with baseball practices and dancing lessons but there was always a homemade dinner on the table. Meatloaf with mashed potatoes, spaghetti, Spanish rice, chicken and dumplings to name a few. Best of all were her cakes and pies. Her lemon meringue pies were the tallest and most delicious. Once the children became teens, Rita went back to work for Sears and Roebuck in San Mateo, becoming the HR manager. She remained employed there for over 25 years.

Rita was so proud of her three sons who all became firefighters. She was very proud that Robert chose to serve his country in the Air Force.

Her children started families of their own and she became Nana to an army of grandchildren.

When Bill, her husband of 52 years, developed Alzheimer's Disease and moved to the Veteran's Hospital in Livermore, she drove across the Bay weekly to see him. From 1996 until his death in 2001 she put her nursing skills back to work, assisting the VA staff in serving meals to the many veterans there.

While still in San Mateo she joined the "Red Hatters" and had many fun-filled experiences with them. She continued driving down to the meetings after she moved to Sonoma. She joined the Sonoma Bocce Ball Club and played deep into her 90s. In 2015 her team won the tournament. She was a founding member of the Monday Night Stressed Out Ladies Unwinding Together, affectionately abbreviated to the S.L.U.T.E.S who met to watch Dancing with the Stars each week. Early on she suggested they score the dancers along with the judges. If your vote was wrong a quarter went into the pot. At the end of each season there was enough money for a crab dinner. One year they donated the pot to a local little league team who was raising money for a trip to Cooperstown.

On her 80th birthday she traded her sedan in for a silver Mustang convertible.

She loved fiercely and proclaimed after the stroke that life was too short and she just needed 1 o more years. When asked what the secret to her good health was, she'd say "martinis and French fries".

Anyone who met this remarkable woman was better for it. Her presence enriched each life it touched. She was an inspiration and a gift to those of us lucky enough to be in her orbit. Whenever told by a loved one "Nana, I love you" her response was always "I love you more".

She was preceded in death by her husband, William M. Davis, Jr. and her son, William M. Davis Ill.

She is survived by her children, Karen, Dave (Erin) and Robert (Shawn) and her grandchildren, George (Diana), Patrick (Kim), Ian, William IV, Alicia, Brittney, Elizabeth (Bryan), Andrew (Melissa), Madeline (Adam), Aubrey (Colin), Lily (Steven), Wynfield and Brad (Lana) and by her great-grandchildren, Camilla, Ava, Conrad, Haleigh, Violet, Aiden, Coral, Callie, August, Ella, Wesley, Sophia and Ayden as well as many, beloved nieces and nephews across the country who she stayed close to.

In lieu of flowers, kindly make donations to the Disabled American Veterans or the USO. A private burial is planned at Skylawn Cemetery on Friday, March 8th

Friends are invited to celebrate the incomparable Rita's life on Saturday, March 9th at the Sonoma Grille from 2-5pm.





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