Life Story / Obituary
Loving, patient, and kind, Rhonda Ruth Bowyer lived a life rich in family. A woman who enthusiastically embraced each moment life gifted her, Rhonda’s warm heart and gentle spirit touched, moved and inspired all who were blessed to know her. Rhonda created beauty and joy wherever she was and in so doing was a powerful source of hope and happiness. Treasured by many, Rhonda will long be remembered in the hearts and lives of those she loved.
The 1950’s were known as the decade of the Baby Boomer. With the Great Depression and WWII firmly in the past, the decade centered around family. Jobs were abundant, and the simple things like buying a home and raising children became the focus for most. Whether catching a ball game or watching TV, family time was the goal and hope for the future the norm. It was with this sense of hope that William and Connie (Menter) Ackerberg welcomed their daughter Rhonda into their hearts and home on September 2, 1959.
Growing up on West McMillan Road, in Muskegon, Rhonda enjoyed much of her childhood. Her parents instilled a strong sense of family and the value of hard work. Her father worked as a welder at Hodge & Anderson, while her mother worked as a nurse’s aide at Hillcrest Nursing Home. Rhonda was a proud older sister to Robin and Billy and spent much of her time enjoying playing in the playhouse her father built for her.
As Rhonda possessed a bit of a big head, her mother affectionately dubbed her “my little pumpkin head.” Rhonda also enjoyed spending as much time as possible with her maternal grandmother, the eponym of her middle name, Ruth Kinsey. There were many fun family vacations and picnics at the Muskegon causeway park that included Gramma Ruth.
Rhonda’s schooling included attending McMillan Elementary, Laketon Junior High, and Reeths Puffer High School. As a teen, she worked as well as tended to her studies. She was an accomplished blueberry picker who was motivated by earning money for school clothes and a 10-speed bicycle. She also worked as a hostess at Kentucky Fried Chicken on Getty Street.
In August of 1975, Rhonda had the good fortune of meeting her future husband, John Bowyer. Having just acquired her new learner’s permit, Rhonda was charged with dropping her sister Robin off to spend the night at her friend’s, Pam Bowyer. As she pulled into the Bowyer’s driveway in her dad’s 1929 Chevy pickup truck, she immediately got Pam’s 17-year-old brother’s attention. The following afternoon, John drove Robin home in his grandfather’s 1968 Buick Riviera that he was buying from his dad. As he pulled up in the Ackerbergs’ driveway, his sister jumped out of the car announcing that she wanted to say hello to Robin’s family. As soon as she found Rhonda, she eagerly pronounced, “My brother’s out there in his car, and he likes you!” In a flash, Rhonda was at John’s open driver’s window asking in true 70’s style, “How’s it going, man?”
Their first date was in that Buick on September 5, 1975, just three days after Rhonda turned 16. The young couple quickly fell in love and knew without a doubt that they were destined to share their lives with each other. Seeing no reason to wait to start the marriage they knew they were meant to share, they married on April 2, 1977, at Dalton Baptist Church. As Rhonda was 17 and finishing up her senior year in high school, John became her legal guardian and was responsible for signing her absence excuses. When it came time to graduate, Rhonda’s counselor advised her to put her maiden name on her diploma asserting that her marriage was unlikely to last. Without hesitation, Rhonda insisted on using her married name and her marriage lasted 40 years, two months and 19 days!
After two years of marriage, John told Rhonda he wanted to quit his job as a machine operator at Fleet Engineers and study Mechanical Engineering at Michigan Tech.
Rhonda's reply was "Lets go!" followed by, "I'm pregnant!"
While John finished his degree at Michigan Tech in Houghton, Michigan he and Rhonda lived in married housing. It was here that Rhonda poured herself into starting the community vegetable garden. Her efforts soon resulted in a bountiful harvest and a long tradition that was credited to her on a plaque that hung outside the married housing office. Rhonda and John soon welcomed their first child, daughter Nikki in 1979. Kari and Lexi followed in 1981 and 1984 respectively. Rhonda relished in motherhood.
Rhonda worked nights as a hostess at Pronto Pizza while John studied at night and watched Nikki and Kari. As she and John could not afford the costs of child care, Rhonda also worked nights cleaning the daycare center at Michigan Tech's Married Housing to assure their attendance.
After college, John and Rhonda moved to the Detroit suburb of Utica, where Lexi's birth rounded out their family. After two years in Utica, the family returned to the Muskegon area. At this time, Rhonda attended cosmetology school. She acquired her license and worked as a cosmetologist for a time.
Without complaint, Rhonda sacrificed her career for moves for John’s education and job moves. As opportunities for temporary assignments around the world presented themselves, Rhonda unhesitatingly responded with an enthusiastic “Let’s go!” The young family moved to Monterrey, Mexico and Kansas City, Missouri embracing the adventure all the way. They always came back to Muskegon and then Whitehall. When John was away on business in Asia and Europe and Rhonda traveled by herself to meet up with him, she would get a bit anxious, but despite her anxiety, her prevailing attitude was always, “I’ll see you there!”
As a result of her sense of adventure, Rhonda was able to experience many wonderful vacations. She explored New York City, Washington DC, the Badlands, and California. Her overseas travel included ventures to England, Germany, France, Spain, Japan, South Korea and, her favorite, Hong Kong.
Over the years, Rhonda held a variety of jobs including sales at JC Penney, accounting office at Farm and Fleet, Customer Service at Great Lakes Ford. Though she enjoyed all of her endeavors, without a doubt her favorite “job” was tending to her family. Whether tending to her girls, sewing, cooking, or gardening, Rhonda cherished providing a sense of home and good love for her family. As the girls grew and began their own families, Rhonda proudly supported each of their endeavors. Her true heart’s delight was becoming a grandmother, and she delighted in every moment she shared with her grandkids. She was always ready to babysit and loved sharing the family traditions like baking holiday treats with the next generation.
Rhonda knew that life’s greatest treasure was found in the relationships she shared with others. Never one to desire fancy things, Rhonda preferred the honesty and joy of the simple things in life. Rhonda enjoyed family get-togethers, cooking, baking, reading, rides by Lake Michigan and White Lake, holding hands, walking along the Muskegon and White Lake channels, White Lake Sunshine at Fetch Brewery, Friday grocery shopping outings with her daughter Lexi, and her Yorkies, Sebastian and Bartholomew. She enjoyed gardening, walks in the dunes, swimming, boating, ice and roller skating, bike riding, and dancing before the limitations of Addison’s disease made these a struggle. Sunday dinners and movie outings were also high on her list of favorite things to do.
Those who knew her best will attest to Rhonda’s firm “No Nonsense” attitude when situations called for it. With tremendous wisdom, she knew how to respectfully create and lovingly hold healthy boundaries. With an inspiring degree of integrity, Rhonda only knew to speak the truth. There’s was no guessing required with Rhonda. She said what she meant and meant what she said. Rhonda was also frugal to the core--sometimes too frugal. When she was admitted to ICU, the first thing she asked the nurse when being given medications was, “How much will that cost me?”
Rhonda’s life was powerfully gifted by the loving care she received from the entire staff of Mercy Health Mercy Campus. Because of their efforts, Rhonda was enveloped with hope and afforded deep comfort. Dr. Karen Seaver’s efforts in diagnosing and vigilant treating of Rhonda’s disease blessed her family with her good company for the past 25 years; some of the best years of her life. During these years she was given the gift of seeing her daughters grow, graduate, marry, and bless her with eight grandchildren in whose eyes she easily saw the spark of her legacy and her greatest hopes for the future.
Surely the world is significantly duller without Rhonda’s vibrant light and infectious smile. While it is beyond words to describe the depth of loss we feel in her absence, may we find comfort in our many sweet memories of the beautiful woman we knew. May we also find the courage to carry Rhonda’s legacy of kindness and love forward. In so doing, we will keep her spirit alive in our hearts and lives where it will continue to ripple out and inspire others.
Rhonda Ruth (Ackerberg) Bowyer
Rhonda Ruth Bowyer, 57, of Whitehall, died peacefully Wednesday, June 21, 2017, in Muskegon in the company of her family. She was born September 2, 1959, to William and Connie (Menter) Ackerberg in Muskegon.
Proudly carrying her legacy forward are her beloved husband, John Bowyer, her beautiful daughters Kari (William) Rensberger, Lexi (Brian) Borek and Nikki all of Muskegon, her 8 treasured grandchildren; Jayce Bowyer, twins Reece and Reed Boutell, Taeah and twins Hunter and Logan Rensberger and Ella and Leila Borek, her mother Connie Ackerberg, sister Robin Brosco and brother Billy Ackerberg.
She was preceded in death by her father William, grandparents Willard and Edna (Kubon) Ackerberg, Clarence Menter, and her best friend and source of her middle name, Ruth Estelle (Poe) Kinsey.
In lieu of flowers, please make a donation in Rhonda’s name to the charity of your choice. If you do not have a preferred charity, please consider The National Adrenal Diseases Foundation.