Rita Hattie Borden, 83, died peacefully on July 3, 2013 at her home in Carolina Meadows, Chapel Hill, NC surrounded by family. Born August 20, 1929 in Milwaukee, WI, Rita was the daughter of the late Friedrich (Fred) George Doerrmann and Hedwig (Hattie) Ganster Doerrmann. She excelled at school, inheriting the optimism and writing skills of her father, and her mother’s focus and organization. Her family lost their house and savings in the Great Depression, but recovered, supported by extended family and friends in a thriving Milwaukee immigrant community. Rita also acquired from her parents a profound devotion to her church and societal institutions, and an intellectual curiosity about the world and the universe that continued to her last days with us. Some of her most vivid childhood memories were of a 1938 trip to Germany and Austria with her parents where she saw their childhood homes and met her father’s mother and his siblings, the survivors of whom she did not see again until the 1970’s.
Rita graduated from high school in West Allis, WI in 1946, and from the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 1950, receiving a BA in Journalism and an election to Phi Beta Kappa. In 1951, she married James (Jim) Benjamin Borden and moved to Boston with him, where he was in graduate school. Jim subsequently went to work for the DuPont Company, moving to Wilmington, Delaware. DuPont transfers took them to Kinston, NC (twice), Waynesboro, VA, Richmond, VA, Wilmington, DE (three times total), and Geneva, Switzerland. In each new city, Rita found numerous ways to employ her journalism background and her interests in education, religion, and community, all the while serving as an engaged mother of three sons, traveling with family, and collecting an ever-larger group of friends.
Rita began her writing with her high school and college newspapers. She served as an editor, writer, or both for the Wyandotte Tribune (Detroit, MI), the Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, WI), the Wilmington Sunday Star (Wilmington, DE), Delaware Today, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Better Homes and Gardens, and the Kinston Daily Free Press (Kinston, NC). In the early 1970’s Rita taught publications and writing at the Tatnall School, Wilmington, DE, and served as Editor of the parent/alumni magazine. Later she tried real estate, but found her true niche working for a national educational consulting business, Independent School Management, first helping to promote the company and then editing its publications and conducting seminars and on-site consultations, helping a full spectrum of public and private schools promote and market themselves. She took an active role in church, assuming many leadership roles, and other community organizations in each place she lived. Of particular note, she served on the Delaware Human Relations Commission, as Chair of the Bon Air (Virginia) Southampton Interfaith Interracial Council, and on the Citizens Advisory Committee to the Kinston (North Carolina) City Schools, where she helped with the relatively smooth integration of the public schools by writing articles for the daily paper and doing a weekly radio show.
In 1990, Rita and Jim retired to Chapel Hill where Rita did not slow down, writing and promoting church and community organizations, supporting and attending arts events, taking educational worldwide trips, and traveling with Jim, her children and grandchildren. When they moved to Carolina Meadows, a continuing care retirement community, Rita served four years as chair of its public relations committee, was a major contributor to the column, Touch of Gray, in the Chapel Hill News, and during the community’s twenty-fifth anniversary celebration, was one of two residents interviewed by Bill Friday on his public television program, North Carolina People.
Rita loved music and singing, continuing her choir participation throughout her life. She played the piano, though effectively only with her right hand, because she had learned the keyboard in her childhood on an accordion, which only has a keyboard for the right hand.
Rita is survived by her husband of nearly 62 years, Jim Borden of Chapel Hill; her sons, Bill Borden, wife Ann Borden, of Raleigh, Tom Borden, wife Gail Gabiati, of San Francisco, CA, and Richard Borden, wife Mary Murphy, of Salt Lake City, UT; and her grandchildren, Greg Borden of New York, NY, Caroline Hallam, husband Luke Hallam, of Raleigh, NC, Julia Borden of New York, NY, James Borden of Raleigh, NC, Ian Borden of San Francisco, CA, Allison Cosca-Barrish of Seattle, WA, Maura Borden of Salt Lake City, UT, and Conall Borden of Salt Lake City, UT.
A memorial service to celebrate Rita’s life will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, July 21, 2013 at the United Church of Chapel Hill, 1321 Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, Chapel Hill, NC. Rita will be interred at the Milton City Cemetery, Milton, WI.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made in Rita’s name to the United Church of Chapel Hill – Music Fund.