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Walk in the Word
PO Box 5368
Elgin, IL 60121
Life Story / Obituary
With a life that spanned times of great change in the world around him, Robert A. Van Rhee lived a life of purpose. There was nothing like one of his stories, and he was also famous for his crazy antics and pranks. A devoted family man, Bob experienced so many of the best things that life has to offer, however what made these so extraordinary was sharing them with the ones he loved most. A passionate ham radio operator, he was a stranger to none and a friend to all. Life will never be the same without Bob here, but his friends and loves ones will forever hold his memory near and dear to their hearts.
The 1950s were a colorful time in American history. James Dean and Marilyn Monroe had become household names, and with Elvis Presley and his rock ’n roll music, the music industry was never the same. It was as the beauty of spring unfolded in May of 1966 that Gordon and Jeanette Van Rhee were eagerly awaiting the adoption of their new baby. The big day finally arrived on May 8th when the baby boy they named Robert Allen drew his first breath. He became the older of two Van Rhee children when his younger sister, Ruth, was adopted a bit later. Bob’s father worked as a realtor while his mother was a homemaker who also worked at Montgomery Ward. Raised in the family home in Grandville, the Van Rhees were members at Trinity Christian Reformed Church and spent summers at Maranatha near Muskegon. Bob attended Grandville Christian Elementary and Calvin Christian High School where he became friends with Ken Kuiper and Jim Guikema, who remained close friends for the rest of his life.
It should come as no surprise to hear that Bob was a bustle of activity even as a young boy. He was active in science club at school. After a science event, Bob and some friends drove themselves home but stopped at a Chinese restaurant and ordered dinner. As is customary, the waitress brought out the large bowl of rice first. Since they hadn’t been to a restaurant like this before, they ended up just eating the rice with some butter and sugar. When the waitress returned with the rest of the meal, she panicked and kept saying, “Where’s the lice?” (meaning rice in her heavy Chinese accent!) Bob liked fishing with his friends and was also known for cruising the Grandville strip in their car. After graduating from Calvin Christian High in 1969, he attended Ferris State University for a year or so before transferring to Grand Valley State University. Bob later graduated with a degree in business administration and finance.
Not to be forgotten during this time was Bob’s introduction to the woman who would change the course of his life forever. They were married, and on the day that he went to take his realtor exam she informed him that she was pregnant. Bob failed the exam miserably, but he was delighted to become a father to two amazing daughters, Dawn in 1977 and Jodi in 1983. Although their marriage later ended in divorce after 17 years, Bob was always so grateful for the daughters they shared.
Bob was an amazing father who was an active part of his daughters’ lives. They took memorable trips to Chicago together, and Bob was also the one to teach them to ski. Sunday mornings usually found him making French toast before church, and some of their best memories were made doing the simple things ice skating and watching fireworks.
New and exciting changes were in store for Bob when he met Lori Duncan while working at Heather Hills. They worked in different buildings but met at a meeting one day. Initially, Lori was less than impressed. As they worked on some projects together, they grew closer and learned to appreciate each other for their own personality and sense of humor. Bob asked her out on a date after work, and they both showed up at Vitale’s on Leonard Street wearing jeans and a denim shirt. What a hoot! In addition to his two girls, Lori also had a son, Jeff Duncan, from a previous marriage. Since they worked in such a close-knit community, they called quite the stir when they staged a wedding and took pictures, leaving their “wedding photo album” on the corner of Bob’s desk. They went all out with tons of pictures and even her son as a witness. Not 20 minutes later, Bob got a call asking, “You got married?” Always the prankster, both he and Lori were beside themselves with laughter. They officially began dating in April of 1995 and were married at her home on Richmond and Wilson later that fall.
Bob was a fan of the TV Show, Seinfeild, and regularly watched the show. He and Lori particularly enjoyed the episode involving the "Soup Nazi" where the term, Schmoopie, was used. From that moment on they were known to their friends and family as the Schmoopies. .
Soon after, Bob took a job as an administrator in Ludington. He remained there for over three years and enjoyed daily walks down to the harbor to watch the Badger coming in. Bob and Lori then moved to Geneva, Illinois, to start up a new care facility. It was two blocks from his sister Ruth’s home. They enjoyed the local theater and auctions there. It was a difficult time in Bob’s life as Lori required brain surgery and had a stroke. His sister was also diagnosed with colon cancer and later died in 2002. He and Lori helped with her young children. After five years, Bob and Lori returned to Grandville to help care for his aging parents.
Throughout his life Bob was a man of many interests. He was an avid ham radio operator whose handle was N8LAS. Bob also enjoyed going to auctions to look for ham radios and parts while Lori looked for china. He liked restoring old radios, especially tube radios, and he was always on the lookout for Trans-Atlantic radios. Bob liked orange chicken from those places in the mall and was also a cheesecake and Diet Coke fan. They took trips to Anna Maria Island, Hawaii, and out to Colorado to see Dawn. Bob and Lori's most recent trip was to Estes Park, CO with Jodi, Nick and their children to visit Dawn and her family. Bob enjoyed classical music and contemporary Christian music on WCSG. After being out of work for a few months he found a local job, retiring this past January. Bob and Lori eventually sold their home in Grand Rapids and moved to the cottage in Ludington full time. It was a difficult transition with many challenges, but things were looking up.
One of the most sweet, caring, and patient people around, Robert Van Rhee was such a blessing. A dear friend, fun-loving adventurer, and all around funny guy, he knew how to have a good time. Talented and hardworking, Bob accomplished great things yet remained humble and true to the faith he held dear. Deeply loved, he will be forever missed by many.
VAN RHEE – Mr. Robert A. Van Rhee aged 66, of Grand Rapids, passed away unexpectedly on August 4, 2017. He was preceded in death by his parents, Gordon and Jeanette Van Rhee; and sister, Ruth Czachorski. Bob is survived by his loving wife of 22 years, Lori; children, Dawn (Jon) Terpstra, Jodi (Nick) Medema and Jeff (Dani) Duncan; grandchildren, Tjalling, Lucas, Antje, Nathan, Allison, and Lindsey; brothers in law, Ron (Marsha) Kooistra and Marc (Lynn) Czachorski; Aunts, Uncles, and many nieces, nephews, and cousins. Bob was a Ham radio operator with the handle: N8LAS and a long time Administrator for several skilled nursing facilities in the Grand Rapids and Chicagoland area. Memorial Service will be held at 11 AM on Saturday, August 12, 2017 at Wellspring Community Church, 4466 Bauer Rd. Hudsonville, MI with Rev. Steve Gibson and Rev. John Witvliet officiating. Friends are invited to visit with the family from 10-11 AM at the church. In lieu of flowers, contributions in his memory may be made to Walk in the Word or Wellspring Community Church. Please visit www.lifestorynet.com to read Bob’s lifestory, archive a memory, photo, or sign the guestbook online.