July 14, 2014

Businesswoman, activist and judge’s wife Arlene “Rickey” Feder dies at 78

Arlene “Rickey” Feder was surrounded by judges in her family.

Arlene “Rickey” Feder was surrounded by judges in her family.

She was married to retired Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Richard Yale Feder, administrative judge of the family division. Her daughter is Circuit Judge Ellen Sue Venzer, of the criminal division.

Feder, who died Sunday at 78 in North Miami, held her own. When she walked into a room, her friends and family members say, you knew.

Feder also wielded her influence in the community. The owner of an insurance firm, she helped found the Broward branch of Women’s American ORT, a charitable group that provides adult training, medical and health services to students, meals and clothing, combats anti-Semitism and supports women’s rights.

She also was active with the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation.

“She was very generous financially with her money and her time. If she was devoted to a cause, she would go all the way out,” said attorney Burton Young, a family friend and former president of the Florida Bar.

“Her parents were instrumental in that,” her husband said. “Her mother and father [Solomon and Jean Blair] tried to inculcate that in her — that love of people that were less fortunate.”

But her family came first.

“Without a doubt, she was one of the most devoted wives that I have ever known. She redefined the word ‘devotion’ as far as her husband was concerned,” said Young.

Young cited an example: Feder fought to have her husband recognized during a courthouse renovation for his work in family law. His portrait now hangs in the Miami-Dade County Courthouse.

“She was a very strong lady. You couldn’t say no to the lady when she was fighting for her cause,” Young said.

“She was very outspoken in her views and her opinions, and she really was the matriarch of our family,” Venzer said.

Feder grew up in Greensboro, S.C., and moved to Miami when she was 15. Later, her family, which included three daughters, lived in Miami Beach.

“My mother was always a role model for my sisters and me as someone who loved her family, loved her friends and loved her community,” Venzer said. “I think she really believed in a work ethic and instilling that in all three of her daughters and grandchildren. If it hadn’t been for my mother, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Young marveled at Feder’s tenacity, even as illness sapped her formidable strength. Seven months ago, her dog needed an operation. One of her stepsons is a veterinarian in South Carolina.

“Sick as she was, she took that dog on an airplane up to him,” Young said. “She loved her little dog. In the last couple of months, before she was bedridden, when she should have been in a hospital, nothing stopped her. She went on a cruise. This is how committed and dedicated she was to living and taking care of the things she loved.”

Her daughter offered a summation: “She was a force to be reckoned with,” Venzer said.

In addition to her husband and daughter, Feder is survived by daughters Sherrie Quiterio and Diane Venzer, stepchildren Scott, Brett and Robin Feder, and 13 grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday at Temple Beth Sholom, 4144 Chase Ave., Miami Beach.

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