Anita Quanbeck of Watertown passed into the loving arms of God on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, winding down a courageous 9 1/2-year battle with multiple myeloma. She was 74.
Anita was born on Feb. 1, 1943, in Latvia, the first daughter of Juris and Made Buncis. Those familiar with world history understand that Latvia in 1943 was not a good time and place for a child to be born. Anita's family survived three foreign occupations during World War II: first by the Soviet Red Army in 1940, who were subsequently overtaken by the Nazis in 1941, only to be retaken by the Soviets in 1944 after the tide turned and the Red Army began advancing towards Germany. During the third invasion, her family was forced from their home and fled on foot with whatever they could carry. Juris, Made and Anita -- still an infant -- advanced hundreds of miles on foot, staying in front of the advancing Soviet army. Along with her parents (soon joined by a younger brother, Andres), Anita eventually made it to a demilitarized zone in Germany, where she grew up in a displaced persons camp until the age of 7. Historians estimate that 12-20 percent of the total population of Latvia was killed in World War II. Anita and her family survived hellish circumstances that are hard to fathom by those of us lucky enough to have been born in the United States. Anyone who knew Anita would agree that she was a tough cookie. Is it any wonder?
When Anita was 7, her family was called to America by a Lutheran outreach mission and took up residence in Janesville. There, Juris found employment at General Motors and the family was finally able to enjoy peace and prosperity as American citizens. In America, Anita made the most of her freedom. She studied nursing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and went on to teach there as well. Upon graduation she found herself with extra funds due to a scholarship and used the money to travel to Germany, buy a new Porsche 912 and tour Europe, stopping at her birthplace of Latvia along the way. While at the university, she met her husband, David Quanbeck. They were united by a mutual love of opera. David and Anita were married in 1969. Anita raised her four boys in Watertown while managing David's medical practice and being an active member of the Watertown community.
As a parent, Anita instilled in her children the value of hard work, frugality, gratitude and humility. She didn't like to see food go to waste and she loved feeding people. Anita created a welcoming home that was the focal point of the neighborhood. Her home was a haven for her own children and their friends. She carried on the warm tradition of her mother who was known for loving to give people hugs. She loved spending peaceful time appreciating the view from the back of the home and loved the birds, squirrels and chipmunks that would gather there. She kept them well fed.
Anita loved God and her family. She touched the lives of countless friends, young and old. She also loved opera music, anything tree-related and peddling the finest shiitake mushrooms at the Watertown and Oconomowoc farmers' markets. She did not like diet soda or milk and made sure everyone knew it. Every year since 1972, she has turned 39 on her birthday, and she will turn 39 yet again on Feb. 1, 2018. Anita looked forward to reuniting in heaven with her husband, David; her brother Andres (aka Uncle Andy); and departed pets Barney, Caesar, Rasputin, Sadie and ET. She will be missed by her children, daughters-in-law and grandchildren left on earth: Cameron (San Mateo, California), Eric (Watertown), Chris (Santa Clara, California) and Andrew (Madison); daughters-in-law Laura (Holl) Quanbeck (San Mateo) and Jamie (Graham) Quanbeck (Madison); five grandchildren, Emma, Luke and Hanna Quanbeck (San Mateo) and Graham and Alexandra Quanbeck (Madison); her niece, Mara Gallagher (Chicago, Illinois); Mara's husband, Tom Gallagher (Chicago); Uncle Andy's wife, Betsy Buncis (Chicago); her many dear and faithful friends, especially Kay Daniels and Maggie Marquis, who offered comfort to her in her last days; and her cat, simply known as "Kitty."
A memorial service will be held at Immanuel Lutheran Church on Sunday, March 4, to commemorate Anita's remarkable life. Visitation will begin at 4 p.m. with the memorial service beginning at 5 p.m. Following the service, all are welcome to join the family for food, drink and fellowship at the Watertown Country Club. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to Watertown Area Cares Clinic (watertownareacaresclinic.org) or the Immanuel Lutheran Church food pantry (www.watertownimmanuel.org).
Pederson-Nowatka Funeral Home is caring for the family. Online condolences may be made at www.pn-fh.com.
Pederson-Nowatka Funeral Home
213 S. Fifth St. Watertown