Debbi Anne Zorea

Debbi Anne Zorea

Debbi Anne Zorea (nee Sander) passed away Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at home at the age of 45, after a six year battle with breast cancer.

She was born on December 4, 1968 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa to Carol Ann and Gilbert Harold Sander. She was a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother of two boys, aunt to nineteen nieces and nephews, a designer, an artist, a cook, a teacher to thousands, and a friend to all.

Deb spent most of her life in a very small town of 500 people (Stanwood, Iowa) where her father worked as the high school shop teacher and her mother worked as the County Nurse. She was very active in sports (basketball, volleyball, and track), and had a natural talent for academics, art, music and voice. She graduated from Lincoln High School in 1986, and attended Central College at Pella, Iowa the following year. As a student, she loved math and drafting and had originally planned to major either in physics, or architecture, but she was quickly drawn into theatre during her freshman year. She combined her love of analytical precision with artistic beauty and entered into the technical theatre program. She graduated with a Communications Degree in 1990. She also sang in the Choir and played in the Pirates of Penzance. Deb went on to earn an MFA Degree from Northern Illinois University, specializing in Theatre Lighting and Design, and Stage Management in 1993. She worked in several professional theatre companies in Iowa, Indiana, Illinois and New York before accepting a teaching position at Interlochen Arts Academy, located just outside of Traverse City, Michigan. After three years, she met the new incoming History instructor, Aharon Zorea, and they were engaged three months later. They married in 1997 and moved to Columbia, Missouri the following year where Deb took a position as Professor of Lighting Design and Stage Management at Stephens College. Their first born son, Jacob arrived three years later, and Jonah arrived the following year. Deb retired from full-time teaching, and worked part-time as a consultant and a freelance designer for Theatre and Dance. For the next fifteen years, even as she lived in Richland Center, Deb returned to Columbia three or four times a year and designed for dance pieces at the Columbia Performance Arts Center.

Deb and Aharon moved to Richland Center in 2004, when Aharon took a position as History Professor at the University of Wisconsin – Richland campus. Deb quickly became involved in the local community, especially in arts, theatre, education, and her parish. She served on the Boards of both the Richland Center Performing Arts Center (RCPAC) and the Community Players of Southwest Wisconsin for nearly ten years and founded the Arts Council Classroom as a teaching arm of RCPAC. She also served on the Board of the Richland Hospital, and was elected to the City Council (though she had to decline the position due to her illness). Deb designed periodically for RC Dance and Gymnastics, and taught part time at the UW-Richland campus. Over the course of her career, Deb designed for more than 100 full-length theatre stage productions, and more than 1,500 dance pieces, as well as dozens of other venues. After her diagnosis with cancer, Deb also began performing on stage, including productions of Annie, Into the Woods, The Sound of Music, and The Secret Garden. In addition, to her work in theatre, music and the arts, Deb also volunteered heavily with a dozen community youth and parent organizations in the Richland County area, and especially at her parish, the Assumption of St. Mary Catholic Church. In addition, she lent her beautiful singing voice whenever she could, including serving in the choir at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe (outside of La Crosse). Since she was in college, Deb was always bringing sweet treats to meetings and other group events, and she later accepted the position as Director of the School Lunch Program at St. Mary’s Parish School, where she was known for her home-made breads, sweet rolls, and hand crafted menus cooked with love. She looked to all the students as her kids and loved to see them smile. Deb was an artist in her designing, in her singing, her cooking, her teaching, and even in her organization. She was a woman of faith, and she tried to see and add beauty to everything she did.

Debbi was preceded in death by her father Gilbert Sander, and is survived by her devoted husband Aharon, sons Jacob and Jonah, mother Carol Sander, aunt Shari, grandmother Bernice Sander, brother Mike Sander, sister Sandi Block (James), father and mother in-law Moshe and Rivka Zorea, Brothers in law Avraham, Isaac (Wendy), Nathan (Mary), and Gabriel Zorea; Sister-in-law Estee (Nic) Abrams, nieces and nephews Jonathan, Caleb, Benjamin, Lucas, Noah, Elijah, Gabriel, Laura, Carol, and Abigail Sander; Zachary and Joshua Block, Luke Zorea; Derek (Sierra), Roxanne and Simon Zorea; Taharei, Skyler, and Trinity Zorea; her newest grand-nephew Bentley; as well as wonderful aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.

Deb loved flowers and requested they be sent to her funeral which will be held on Monday, July 21, 2014 at 11:00 AM at St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church in Richland Center, with Monsignor Roger Scheckel, Father Robert Letona, and Father Emmanuel Famiyeh concelebrating. Burial will follow in the St. Mary’s Cemetery. Friends may call at St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church on Sunday, July 20, 2014 from 7:00 PM until 9:30 PM where a rosary will be held at 7:00 PM. Friends may also call at St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church on Monday, July 21, 2014 from 10:00 AM until the time of the mass at 11:00 AM.

The Pratt Funeral and Cremation Service is assisting the family with their arrangements. Online condolences can be made at