Gene Robert Van Rhee

  • Born: December 2, 1930
  • Died: March 3, 2020
  • Location: Richland, Michigan

Farley Estes Dowdle Funeral Home & Cremation Care

105 Capital Ave NE
Battle Creek, MI 49017

Tel. (269) 962-5527

Tribute & Message From The Family

Gene Robert Van Rhee, 89, of Richland, Michigan and formerly of Zeeland, Irons & Battle Creek, Michigan died peacefully on Tuesday, March 3, 2020, at Borgess Hospital in Kalamazoo.

He was born December 2, 1930 in Zeeland, Michigan the son of Edward and Henrietta (Goorman) Van Rhee. Gene or Bob, as he was known grew up in Zeeland and was a 1948 graduate of Zeeland High School. After high school he worked for Herman Miller Furniture Company. Gene honorably served his country in the U.S. Army in Korea. After the service he earned a Bachelor's Degree in Industrial Arts and Speech from Western Michigan University. He moved to Battle Creek taking a job at Pennfield High School and went on to receive his Master's Degree in School Administration and Supervision from Western Michigan University. He then became the Program Director for the former Fort Custer State Home and when it closed was transferred as the Program Director for the Coldwater State Home.

Gene Robert Van Rhee was united in marriage to Shirley Y. Haylett on May 5, 1950 in Plainwell, Michigan. Surviving are Shirley, his wife of nearly 70 years; daughter, Susan (Craig) Norrod of Battle Creek; granddaughter, Brittany (Tong) Mai of Snohomish, WA; two great-granddaughters, Amelia and Evangeline; brother, Jack (Judy) Van Rhee of Zeeland, MI. along with so many friends that were like family to him. Gene was preceded in death by his parents; two sons, David and Robert Van Rhee and a brother and sister-in-law, Wesley and Janette Van Rhee.

Gene and Shirley were heavily involved with the U.S. Power Squadron – America's Boating Club for over 50 years. Gene served in many positions at the local, district and national levels. Throughout the years, they boated all over the world. They also wintered in Fort Walton Beach, FL for 20 years. Gene also was an accomplished woodworker filling his house with beautiful cabinetry along with very special pieces for family and friends. Later in life he loved watching birds and could name every kind along with nurturing his tomato plants always trying a different kind. During high school he played basketball and always tuned in for the NCAA basketball tournament. In his younger years he liked skydiving, even letting his young sons pack his parachute. Gene will be remembered as the BEST Husband, Dad, Grandpa, Great-Grandpa and for always going out of his way to meet people who usually became lifelong friends. As many of you know his smile was infectious.

A committal service with full military honors by Fort Custer Honor Guard and the U.S Army Honor Guard will be held at Fort Custer National Cemetery 2:30 p.m. Friday, July 10, 2020.

Memorial contributions may be made to United States Power Squadrons, 1504 Blue Ridge Road, Raleigh, NC 27607 or by phone at 888 367-8777.

Arrangements are by Farley Estes Dowdle Funeral Home & Cremation Care. Personal messages for the family may be placed here at