Joan (Syte) Ruth Reitz, age 70, died peacefully Tuesday early evening, October 11 at St. Mary’s Hospital with her family at her side. She had recently been diagnosed with cancer and contracted pneumonia as a complication of her treatment. Joan, better known as Syte (a Lithuanian nickname meaning ‘little sister’) to her friends and family, was born on December 23, 1951 in Brooklyn, NY to her parents Albin and Ruta Strazdis. She grew up in Queens, NY, and attended St. Benedict Labre School and later Marymount Catholic High School in Manhattan. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry from State University of New York – Stony Brook, then went on to earn her PhD in Biochemistry from Rutgers University, with postdoctoral studies at Princeton University, eventually beginning an Assistant Professorship in Biochemistry at Oakland University in Michigan.

During her time at SUNY – Stony Brook, a young man approached her in the cafeteria, and asked to share dinner together. This meeting eventually led to her marrying the young man, Rolf, on August 16, 1974.

Shortly after Syte’s oldest son Chris was born, she made the tough decision to end her university research and teaching career (or so she thought) to raise him. A couple of short years later, Syte and Rolf were blessed with a second son, Tom. Rolf’s work took the family to Madison, WI and Syte went to work turning the house they had purchased into a home. In the mid-1990s, at now-6th-grader Chris’ suggestion, Syte decided to homeschool her sons, plunging herself back into the teaching vocation until the boys were out of the house. At about this same time, Syte rediscovered her Catholic faith and quickly developed a love for the Rosary and Mary under the title of Our Lady of Good Help. Syte’s love for teaching never left her. When the boys were raised, she continued to share her insights on the Church, morality and culture through her website,

After his retirement in 2015, Syte spent her last few years with her best friend, Rolf, and a small circle of friends from the local Catholic community. In the summer of 2022, Syte was diagnosed with cancer which had metastasized to several areas of her body. She immediately began cancer treatment, and bravely accepted the accompanying sufferings with joy. In her last weeks, she had the joy of being surrounded with her sons, daughters-in-law and granddaughters, and of attending Rolf’s baptism and initiation into the Catholic Faith. On October 7, Syte entered the hospital with pneumonia, and, on the evening of the 11th, died peacefully and naturally instead of continuing invasive treatments.

Syte is survived by her husband, her sons Chris (Rebecca) and Tom (Tracey), her three granddaughters, and her younger brother Lucius (Vida) Strazdis. She is preceded in death by her parents and older brother Vytas. Syte’s Mass of Christian Burial will be held at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Madison, WI on Tuesday October 18 at 10am. A burial service will follow at Resurrection Cemetery on the near-west side of Madison. In lieu of flowers, memorials to the Women’s Care Center would be appreciated.