Sydney Rieckhoff
1941 - 2020
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Sydney Rieckhoff

Sept. 21, 1941 - Nov. 18, 2020


Sydney Ann (Plaut) Rieckhoff passed away on Wednesday, November 18, 2020, following an extended illness. She was 79 years old.

She was born in Goshen, Indiana, on September 21, 1941, to David Sidney and Lydia C. (Shyne) Plaut. Sydney was an animal lover, and an avid horsewoman in her youth, showing her beloved horse Coco at area competitions. She was involved in Campfire, and in Rainbow Girls, where she served as a Worthy Advisor. She was salutatorian of her high school class, and attended Hanover College, where she was a member of Kappa Alpha Theta fraternity. She remained active in the local Theta alumni chapter for years. She was graduated from Goshen College in 1963, with a degree in elementary education, and embarked on a lifetime of service and education.

On October 27, 1984, Sydney married the Honorable James W. Rieckhoff, who survives her. Also surviving are her three children, Stephen Gruber of Elkhart, Sean Gruber of Elkhart, and Sara (Tim) Conroy of Niles, MI; her stepchildren, Jeffrey (Barbara) Rieckhoff of Ashburn, VA and Julie (Brian) Doe of Key West, FL; her granddaughters, Emilia James of Washington, DC and Charlotte Rieckhoff of New Orleans, LA; and one brother, David Plaut of McKinney, TX. She was preceded in death by her parents, Sidney and Lydia, and younger brother, Joseph.

In the early 1970s, Sydney served on the board of the Elkhart Urban League and was an active member of the John Brademas and Birch Bayh campaigns. She was also a passionate advocate for mental health, serving on the founding board of the Samaritan Center, and as chairwoman from 1978 to 1979. She was a founding board member of the New Day Crisis Nursery (later CAPS). She served in various volunteer capacities for CAPS, was on the endowment board, and later involved in strategic planning for that organization. In the 1980s, Sydney was involved on the board of ADEC, and served as President of the Board, as well as serving as a guardian ad litem for CASA. In the 1990s, she served on the board and was an officer of Oaklawn Psychiatric Center.

After years as a substitute teacher, Sydney began her teaching career in 1983 as a junior high school language arts teacher: first at Westside Middle School, later at Pierre Moran, and, finally, at St. Thomas the Apostle School, from which she retired in 2003. During her early retirement, Sydney rekindled her love for horses by volunteering with Loveway, a PATH program. She also served on the Board of Session for the First Presbyterian Church, and was a volunteer reading tutor at Riverview Elementary School.

Sydney was a passionate opera and arts lover, and the Saturday afternoon Texaco broadcasts of “Live From the Met” (and, later, the Met Simulcasts in HD) were sacred occasions in her household. She and her beloved husband Jim were loyal supporters of the Elkhart Concert Club, Elkhart Civic Theatre, the Elkhart Jazz Festival, the Elkhart Symphony, the Midwest Museum of American Art, WVPE, WNIT, Wellfield Botanic Gardens, the Ruthmere Fall Concert Series, the Art Institute, and the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Nature and fitness were also lifelong passions of Sydney. Her long daily walks were a favorite form of exercise, giving her the opportunity to enjoy the seasons, greet neighbors, and befriend the many dogs she met along the way.

A celebration of life will be held at a later date. Hartzler-Gutermuth-Inman Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

In the spirit of Sydney's charitable nature and work, in lieu of flowers, her family suggests that contributions be made in her name to: CAPS Elkhart, 1000 W. Hively Ave., Elkhart, IN 46517; the Samaritan Center, 311 W. High St., Elkhart, IN 46516; ADEC, 19670 IN 120, Bristol, IN 46507; or LoveWay, Inc., 54151 C.R. 33, Middlebury, IN 46540.

To leave the family an online condolence, please visit the funeral home website.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in South Bend Tribune on Nov. 21, 2020.
No memorial events are currently scheduled. To offer your sympathy during this difficult time, you can now have memorial trees planted in a National Forest in memory of your loved one.
Memories & Condolences
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5 entries
November 25, 2020
Jim - Sydney was a wonderful person and will be missed by everyone who knew her. Sending my condolences to you and wishing you peace.
Tim Eby
November 22, 2020
A beautiful life well lived. So grateful for Sydney paving the wave for many programs my children love today in Elkhart County. Her commitment to service is inspiring. What a beautiful legacy...and her children are incredible too . Rest in heaven Sydney.
Stephanie Krol
November 21, 2020
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Barbara Rieckhoff
November 21, 2020
Jim, my condolences to you and your family. Judy Jankowski
Judy Jankowski
November 21, 2020
Steve, my heartfelt condolences go out to you and the family during this time. I fondly remember you and your mom from my teaching days at Riverview School. Her infectious smile brightened up the room during parent conferences!

Fondly, "Miss Staley" Mrs. Pat Rider
Riverview School, Room 7
Patricia A Rider
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