Robert Riekse ’55

Dr. Robert James Riekse, age 86, surrounded by his family, went to be with the Lord on Friday, August 30, 2019. He was born May 9, 1933, in Grand Rapids, Michigan to Gilbert and Esther Riekse during the depths of the Great Depression.

He was preceded in death by his sister and brother-in-law, Marian and George Gerritsen. He worked at Riekse Electric & Hardware in his youth and graduated from South High School in 1951. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Hope College, a master’s degree from the University of Michigan, a Doctor of Education from Michigan State University where he was a Kellogg Fellow and completed postdoctoral work at Miami Dade Community College in Miami, Florida. He was a true scholar and life-long learner.

During his 50 year career in education, he served as professor, dean, registrar and director of admissions almost entirely at Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC). He was a pioneer in gerontology. He co-authored four books on aging and caring for aging parents. He helped form the GRCC-Calvin College Consortium on Aging and the Older Learner Center at GRCC. He also helped bring Reconciliation Centers to the state of Michigan in the 1980’s through a grant from the Detroit based Hudson-Webber Foundation. He was also proud of the 2002 Telly Award for their GRCC-Calvin College program on successful aging.

He was a life-time member of the Reformed Church in America, active in his community and helped form the North East Citizens Action Committee in Grand Rapids. Above all his accomplishments was his love for his family. He was a loving, supportive husband, and a very proud father and grandfather. He especially enjoyed summers at Gun Lake where his positive energy and special talks with family energized others for the days ahead.

He is survived by his devoted wife Ellen who celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary on August 15th, his children Jonathan and Amy Riekse of Grand Ledge and Dr. Robert G. and Rev. Rebecca Riekse of Grand Rapids, and his grandchildren, who were such a joy to him, Sydney (fiance Jared Clark), Jenna, Taryn, Raina and Ella. He is also survived by his brother-in-law and sister-in-law George and Linda Berry of Portage, Michigan, as well as nieces and nephews.

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