Tucson business icon Lee Levitz passes away at age 89

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Tucson business icon Lee Levitz passes away at age 89

CREATED Jan 4, 2013

Web Producer: Mekita Rivas

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - The family of a Tucson icon is mourning the loss of their matriarch. Lee Levitz, the widow of Tucson furniture giant Sam Levitz, has passed away from natural causes.

In a news release, the Levitz family said that she died on New Year's Day in her home and was surrounded by loved ones. 

A former model and actress, Lee moved to Tucson in 1964 as Sam Levitz's bride. She became active in the family's furniture business, as head of marketing and advertising and as the company spokesperson.

Lee was born Frances Lee LaBelle DeWade in St. Louis, Missouri on Feb. 22, 1923. She was the oldest of four children. As a 4-year-old, she started school in a one-room country school taught by her aunt.

At 12, she had her own radio show performing as a country singer. She would go on to become a top model at the Ford modeling agency, a Coca-Cola girl in the mid-fifties, a stand-in for Marilyn Monroe and hostess of a live TV talk and variety show and a children's show.

Lee Levitz was at her husband's side when he passed away six years ago at the age of 91. She is survived by her brother, Clarence DeWade, her daughters, Sherry (Ed) Stewart, Kandie (Drew) Vactor, Suzanne (Ron) Payton, Kathi (Chuck) Peters, and her sons Sam R. (Valerie) Levitz and Andy Levitz.

Her fourteen grandchildren include: Kathryn Levitz (Fred) Greene, Charlotte Watson, Jennifer (John Peck) Levitz, Milissa Easter, Cheynne Easter Copeland, Elissa (Marvin) David, Saundra Levitz, Lindsay Levitz (Brendan) Burke, Amber Levitz, Kelly (Nate) Peper, Michael Payton, Robert Levitz, Andrew Levitz and Aaron Levitz.

Ten great-grandchildren include: Ken Easter Copeland, Thomas Corso, Roxanne Copeland, Jessica Gilbert, Leandra Easter, Jake Copeland, Kali David, Julia David, Sidney Green, and Avery David.

The family will have a private service and burial.

They are requesting that in lieu of flowers, the public donate to "Step Up into TLC," a charity founded by one of Lee's caregivers that fosters therapeutic healing to children and adults with special needs.

Click here to see a gallery of photos provided by the Levitz family, remembering the life of Lee Levitz.