OTTUMWA — Robert Richard Rhynas, 88, of Ottumwa, passed away peacefully at home July 5, 2014.
Robert was born April 23, 1926, in Stockport, Iowa, to Warren James and Ruth Mary Comfort Rhynas. He married Shirley Ann Kreutzbender on December 26, 1950.
A 1944 graduate of Ottumwa High School, he attended Bradley University.
Bob spent his life in the happy pursuit of those many things that fascinated him. His journey took him from the passions of making jewelry to the joy of teaching someone to swim. His love of his family and community always shaped his life. Bob’s first steps in jewelry began by cutting agates found glistening in the sun on a Des Moines river bank, and setting them in handmade rings of silver and gold. His love of gemstones led him to study with Stuart Lapidary Institute of New Jersey in 1947 and to cut gems and diamonds for Tiffany’s in New York. Continuing his studies at Bradley University, he mastered the skills of the jeweler and watchmaker. Bob opened Rhynas Jewelry on Church Street in his home town of Ottumwa in 1958. It continued to grow, eventually employing his wife Shirley, his two sons David and Kenneth, and his daughter-in-law Judy. He attained the title of Certified Gemologist from the American Gem Society and the Gemological Institute of America.
An early experience in his youth caused him to devote his life to teaching hundreds of people to swim. He volunteered 35 years for the American Red Cross as Water Safety Instructor, Water Safety Instructor Trainer, and Water Safety Chairman for Wapello County and surrounding areas. He loved water activities such as canoeing, kayaking, sailing, and windsurfing. He also loved reading, art, and exploring new places. His daughter Kathy was inspired by his love of reading and became a librarian.
His civic responsibilities led him to be elected President of the South Ottumwa Boosters for three terms, serve on Chamber of Commerce boards, work to create recreational trails in Ottumwa and Wapello County, and serve on committees finalizing plans for the Beach Ottumwa. He was also a member of Willard St. United Methodist Church.