Read at her memorial service by Stephanie Shade
Compiled and written by Lori Norman, Katrina Farr,
Stephanie Shade and Nancy Johnson
I have been asked to speak for a lot of you who loved and cared about Rhonda. Although I have been a part of her world for many years, some of you have known her most of your life. I am very honored to share these thoughts and feelings that were expressed by her father, mother, and brother, her husband, her children, her friends, students, and colleagues.
Rhonda was always talking about her mom and dad. She knew that she was blessed with loving and supportive parents. As we are remembering Rhonda, we now understand how her mom and dad helped her become the person we all knew and loved. Many believe that Rhonda’s sense of humor comes from her daddy, but in truth, we all know that her quick wit was honed by none other than Jolene, AND, Jolene was as quick with her house slipper as she was with her wit.
As Jolene and Wendell raised Rhonda and Randy in a home full of love, Randy soon learned that he had to eat Rhonda’s cooking from the Easy Bake Oven, as well as endure her nursing skills later in his life. A few years ago Randy had an ear ache and Rhonda was going to rescue him with her melaluca oil. Even though he was almost taken to the hospital because of the intense burning, he can still hear out of that ear and he continued to love her unconditionally. Randy shared yesterday that he always knew that he had a special sister, but didn’t realize that everybody else knew she was special too.
One of Wendell’s favorite memories that he believed helped build Rhonda’s character was the gas story. Rhonda called Wendell at work on the day she was enrolling as a new freshman at SOSU because she had run out of gas. She told Wendell that he had to hurry and bring her some gas. So Wendell took off work, went home and got the gas can and took her some gas. When he got there he asked her how this happened and she said, well dad, I only had $2.00 for gas and I didn’t have time to go across town to fill up at the charge station. Wendell told her that this was the last time he would do this for her and it was the last time she called Wendell when she ran out of gas. However, but Wendell knows, as we all do, that she still continued to run on empty, because she didn’t make time to refuel.
It is difficult for me to express in words what a genuine and loyal friend Rhonda Estep was. As we all sat together the past few days, these are some of our fondest memories of her:
Rhonda could be the girliest of the girls, she taught Nancy Johnson and all of us about foundation garments, scuba suits, Sam Moon’s, and the best bargains on the planet. But Rhonda could also pull her hair back in a ponytail, put on a pair of sweats and be ready to go without any make up on in a moments notice. She was forever saying, Listen girls, you don’t have to get gussied up, we are just going to Taco Casa.
Rhonda was known as the “Queen of the one liners.” For those of her girly friends, you will know what I mean when Rhonda would say she was a 42 long. For of those of you who don’t know what that means, ask!
Katrina knows about the 42 long and how Rhonda rescued her on her wedding day by putting the dry cleaning bag over her head, and saving Katrina’s wedding day hair and make up, created by Tammy.
Lori and Amy also know about 42 long. Amy shared that Rhonda was forever bailing her out of trouble.
But once in a while Rhonda needed rescuing. Just ask Lori why Rhonda had a key to her house.
Rhonda’s circle of friends is never ending. There are those of us who have been with Rhonda through many chapters in our lives and the bond has remained. We will continue to display this love with the wearing of our friendship bracelets.
Her colleagues said Rhonda could get people to do things that no one else could. Just ask Gary Dominick why he dressed up like a Dalmatian, and barked! Or Gary and Rhonda’s experience with the school cafeteria hot dogs.
And Rhonda could do things with a buttonier that we didn’t think could be done!
She was their female “Dr. Phil” with good advice about wrinkle free Eddie Bauer shirts, beautiful complexions, and the cure for EAS after Friday’s baked potatoes.
Rhonda was truly an exceptional teacher and we are all proud of her many academic accomplishments. She was an advocate for her students, as well as her colleagues. Wasn’t she, Dr. Jackson?
Rhonda was truly brilliant.
Teresa said that Rhonda was the only one who could come up with the idea of rewarding her students for their reading accomplishments by letting them put up, and take down the bulletin board. And believe me, the students loved it.
But most of all, we know that Rhonda loved and respected each and every one of her students. Jackson Stuteville expressed this best when he and his mom gave us this letter that I would like to share a portion of:
Through all his questions as to “why”, I found in his innocence a true love for his teacher, Mrs. Estep. “Mom, I love our carpet squares she let us sit on while we had reading time. She would even let me sleep if I needed to. She was the “coolest” teacher ever! Mrs. Estep would always let me call you (mom) to go to lunch and never cared if I left early to go eat. We always talked about what Brittany was doing and I heard lots about the wedding she was planning for her son. I hope Mr. Harrison lets us do a memorial for her. Nobody should forget what a great teacher she was. I think I will call him."
The most important friend in Rhonda’s life, was her husband Mike. She married him when she was 18 years old and immediately took on the role of being Josh’s mommy. Josh was 4 at that time. Rhonda said she knew she had to marry Mike the day that she walked in and found Josh eating oatmeal watered down with Kool-Aid. The only way she could rescue Josh was to marry his daddy. Mike knew it was true love between Josh and Rhonda, the day Josh cut the brand new sofa and Rhonda just turned over the cushions with a grin and carried on. But don’t ask what Mike did to him. And with the addition of Brittany, Rhonda Jr., the family was complete.
Mike took every opportunity to honor and express his love, commitment and respect for Rhonda, regardless of who he was with, or where he was -- Just like in his acknowledgement to Rhonda and the kids in his dissertation or the toast he gave at Josh and Becca’s rehearsal dinner. I will never forget how flustered Rhonda was at Mike because he thought he was supposed to give the toast at the wedding instead of the rehearsal dinner. But at the last minute, he pulled it together and brought tears to many of our eyes when he said Rhonda was his best friend and he hoped that Josh and Becca’s relationship would be as complete as his and Rhonda’s. We all know that Mike and Rhonda truly loved each other and challenged and encouraged each other to be their very best.
In closing, for those of you who have shared your stories and memories that you had of Rhonda that weren’t told today, please continue to share them with her family, friends and children who will never be as blessed as we were to hear Rhonda tell those stories. If I had told each story it would have been the first time Rhonda would have ever waited on us.
Rhonda was Funny, Smart, and a True “Rescue Ranger.” What a tribute it is to Rhonda that all of you are here today, and she is so proud that you even got “gussied” up for her.
As a longtime friend of Rhonda's, I am adding this little story to her eulogy:
When Mike and Rhonda were getting married, I was right there in the thick of things. Karen Staley made their wedding cakes. At their rehearsal dinner at the lake, Karen was in a quandry as to how to decorate the sheet cake she was serving that night.
Knowing the warped sense of humor both Mike and Rhonda had, I told her what to write on the cake. We walked out together, Karen holding the cake aloft and myself giving a feeble, bumbling explanation of how the Donut Shop had sadly gotten their cake mixed up with someone else's.
In lovely script across the cake, it read, "HAPPY HANNUKAH, MOISHE AND WILHELMINA FELDERMAN!"
Of course, Mike and Rhonda and everyone in the wedding party screamed with laughter.
Wilhelmina, I know you are up there reading, watching, listening and laughing along with the rest of us. You left us a legacy of laughter that helps soften the sorrow.
Happy Hannukah! I love you, girlfriend.
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