Thea Zimmerman

Thea passed away peacefully on Sunday morning, December 16, at age 91. She was born in Berlin, Germany, on January 24, 1921, and was living at Burcham Hills Retirement Community in East Lansing, Michigan, at the time of her death, and was a member of Congregation Kehillat Israel, where her son serves as rabbi.

As a teenager Ms. Zimmerman hoped to study art and design. Instead she needed to escape from Nazi Germany before completing high school, and worked for two retail chains. During World War II, when several of the Zimmerman brothers who ran the Cotton Shop chain were serving in the war, she assumed major managerial responsibilities. After the war she married Ralph Zimmerman, who remained her faithful companion for over 60 years. Eventually she and her husband founded a successful retail store, Harper’s Inc., where she could utilize her natural talents in management, personnel relations, and design. She was also a founding member of Congregation Solel, where she served as the first religious school chair and on the first rabbi search committee. During retirement until Ms. Zimmerman’s stroke in 2001, she and her husband pursued their interests in art, architecture, music, and food. For years she read extensively on psychology and the human brain, even as she herself was succumbing to dementia. She will be warmly remembered by family, friends, and caregivers alike for her loving support and radiant smile, even after she lost the capacity to speak.

She is survived by son Rabbi Michael Zimmerman, his wife Elischa and granddaughter Lili, and was preceded in death by her husband Ralph Zimmerman, brothers Martin and Gerhard Bergmann, and daughter Lois Zimmerman.

Funeral services will be held at Estes-Leadley Greater Lansing Chapel, 325 Washtenaw St., Lansing, Michigan, at 3:00 p.m. Monday, December 17, 2012.  Interment will follow in Evergreen Cemetery.  No flowers are requested. Donations may be made to one of the following: Burcham Hills Foundation, Stanford Stroke Center, or Congregation Kehillat Israel.

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