OBITUARY: David Rhodes

Retired musician and travel agent David Rhodes’ life didn’t come to an end with his death on March 15, 2022, in Hesston. His long battle with Parkinson’s disease only really slowed down his love of travel in his final two years. He was surrounded by his loved ones who will continue to honor his legacy through music and by having adventures around the world.

He was born to Omar and Edna (Yoder) Rhodes on Feb. 13, 1939, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. After graduating from high school, Dave attended Goshen College in Goshen, Ind., during which he took two years to do voluntary service in Belgium before returning to graduate in 1964. It was during this time that he met his future wife, Phyllis Bontrager. He taught at Jimtown Junior High and High School in Indiana while working on his MA in music from the University of Oregon, which included a year spent in Germany. In 1970, he returned with his young family to his hometown of Kalona, Iowa, where he taught kindergarten through eighth grade music in Kalona and Wellman.

In 1981, Dave became a professor of music at Hesston College and in the early 1990s, he opened his own travel agency. He was the originator and director of the Hesston Performing Arts series, bringing world-famous groups to Kansas. From 2002 to 2008, he and Phyllis lived in Lithuania, where he was fine arts coordinator at LCC International University. During his professional career, he took hundreds of students and adults on countless tours throughout the USA, Canada, Europe, Asia and Africa.

His smile, joie de vivre, love of music and culture, and love of teaching influenced everyone who knew him. He shared the gift of music and harmony with decades of students and taught his choirs to sing with intensity and perfection. He helped many young people transition from adolescents to confident, (mostly) independent young adults while at the same time making it fun. He challenged his children, grandchildren and many, many others to explore the world, much like a father bird pushing his babies out of the nest so they could learn to fly. Dave opened people’s minds to possibilities by inspiring them to dream, think big and ask for the unimaginable because, “If you don’t ask, it will always be a ‘no’!”

Dave is survived by his wife, Phyllis Rhodes; brother Warren Rhodes (Illinois); sister Jeanette Mellinger (Virginia); daughter Ingrid Schaedtler (Germany); son Shawn Rhodes (Kansas); daughter Gretchen Rhodes-Marasco (Hawaii) and his grandchildren Conner Rhodes (Kansas), Maia Schaedtler (Germany), Ciaran Schaedtler (Europe), Quinn Rhodes (France) and Allegra Marasco (Hawaii). His family is sad that he has gone on his final journey without them, but they know that he is singing in the best choir ever and will once again be able to ‘walk with a purpose’ and annoy late sleepers with his ‘wakey, wakey’. Hopefully, he will finally find the fabled chocolate torte in the shape of a soccer ball. Although he’ll probably hide it before his family can join him.

A memorial service will be at a future date. In lieu of flowers, please donate to LCC Ukraine Emergency Fund to support LCC University students affected by the invasion of Ukraine.



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