Cover photo for Joan Ellen Rodenhiser's Obituary
Joan Ellen Rodenhiser Profile Photo
1935 Joan 2015

Joan Ellen Rodenhiser

April 6, 1935 — February 26, 2015

Joan E. Rodenhiser of Portage a loving mother, grandmother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, cousin, teacher and friend. Born April 6, 1935 in Kalamazoo. Daughter of Oliver Sheldon and Georgia B. (Overhuel) Stiles. Joan was the epitome of caring and unconditional love. She was always teaching, working and giving of herself. She was consistently present for her children whether it was Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, Little League, high school baseball, hockey, volleyball, softball or tennis. Ever supportive, she was always there to cheer her kids on, even rubbing Icy Hot on her son’s sore pitching arm. Later, when she became a grandparent, she made many cross country trips with her daughter, Ellen, to bring Christmas joy to her grandson who was the light of her life. It became a family joke that after grandson Lincoln was born, everyone else would “take a back seat”. In reality Joan’s love for her family, friends and coworkers was evident in all of her actions. Joan attended Washington Elementary and Kalamazoo High. She attended Kalamazoo College where she met Robert Rodenhiser whom she later married. Upon graduating, Joan taught at Washington Elementary School. Joan then started a family, whom she cherished, and at the same time, continued to pour energy into her lifelong legacy: guiding, inspiring, and encouraging young children. She knew how critical their early years were and she wanted them to have every possible chance of success. She also valued learning as a never ending process which is why, years later, she attended classes with her daughter at Western Michigan University; together, they earned their master’s degrees in early childhood education. Soon thereafter, Joan directed the after school program at the Kalamazoo Montessori School. Once again, in her element, she impacted the lives of hundreds of young children with her creativity, compassion and generosity. Her devotion as a mother was without question. When her daughter was near death due to a motor vehicle accident, Joan dropped everything to be by her side. As her fierce advocate, she was active in many roles such as motivator, coach, safety coordinator, documentation specialist. She was side by side in cooperation with the medical team to determine the care plan. She alone, protected her daughter’s goals and wishes to return to the life she once knew. Against all odds, a seemingly impossible recovery occurred. Upon returning to Kalamazoo, Joan continued her work that she loved with children and later started another position working at Curious Kids. She continued her high standard of teaching by example. Joan had immense respect for children; she fully believed in their right to make their own choices, she wisely understood that their greatest learning happened when they made their own discoveries, and she fought tirelessly for the misunderstood child. She wholeheartedly believed that learning should be fun and channeled her creative talents into engaging lessons which her students remembered years later. Always inquisitive, Joan had many interests. She loved to play piano and sing. She enjoyed board games with her husband and family. There was no laughter quite like that associated with the game of Pictionary and creative drawings with her family. She loved to shop with her daughter and made many trips to Shipshewana to get bargains for others. She was very artistic, and created and sold paintings at craft shows. Tennis was another of Joan's favorite activities. Joan thrived being out of doors: She loved to be active and to work out. She was often motivated by the music of Bob Seger. As a writer she was extremely eloquent and was in the process of writing a book detailing necessary changes for health care. She cherished times fishing with her son, walking around the block with her daughters and bird watching. She especially looked forward to seeing the cardinals and hummingbirds. Faithfully, she charted the arrival and the departure of the hummingbirds each year. A very spiritual person, Joan was in tune with nature’s subtle signs, and believed that there are no coincidences. Gardening was another of Joan’s passions, and she loved to be surrounded by her Heavenly Blue morning glories. Joan's faith was strong, she incorporated God into all her actions. She taught her children that God is ALWAYS watching and to always do the right thing no matter what. God was also a source of strength to draw upon. Joan’s own strength became very apparent in the last seven years of her life. She endured and persevered through horrendous adversities that no mother or woman should ever face. She confronted her challenges head on with courage and insurmountable tenacity. She was a person of great integrity: Joan held a strong belief that we have a duty to honor the bond between a mother and child at all times. Just as she taught her preschoolers that no two snowflakes are the same, her life journey was a perpetual reminder of our sacred duty to treat each person as an individual deserving respect and kindness. Joan was without a doubt, a one of a kind, unique gem. An agile wit and clever sense of humor kept everyone guessing. Countless caretakers, nurse, co-workers, and friends became instantly attached to Joan, and wanted to claim her as their own. Hers was a very sweet and loving nature which naturally drew people in. throughout her life, Joan never once lost sight of what truly mattered. She never stopped caring about other people, and always put others before herself. She was the embodiment of God’s Grace. Although her life was difficult at times, she never abandoned her ideals: Love of family, Faith in God, Integrity, Justice, Compassion and Honesty were guideposts that she lived by. In every sense she was loyal. She was a class act, as were her parents, and her daughter Ellen who she is preceded by. She was preceded by her brother Jack, whom she adored. Joan is survived by her husband Robert, her son Richard, her daughter, Jeanie, her daughter Connie (Nick) grandson (Lincoln) and many nieces, nephews, cousins, and loved ones who she cherished. Few people are privileged enough to witness the full extent of their mother’s love… Joan’s children were among the lucky ones. In lieu of flowers donations may be sent in Joan's name to: Kalamazoo Montessori School, Kalamazoo College, The Kalamazoo Nature Center or the Valley Family Church. Friends will be received 6-8 pm Wednesday, March 11, 2015 at Redmond Funeral Home, 4100 S. Westnedge Ave. Kalamazoo, MI 49008, (269) 343-6156. www.redmondfuneral homes.net
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