Sheila Elizabeth Rynbrandt was a devoted wife, tender-hearted mother, fun-loving grammie, and fierce friend. She left this world peacefully in the loving presence of her husband, son, and daughter on January 14, 2023 at the age of 78.
Sheila was born July 22, 1944, in Lansing, Michigan, to James and Agnes (Hertel) VanVoorhis. After graduating from high school, Sheila began a 10-year long career as an executive secretary for the State of Michigan, where she met her husband, James Rynbrandt. They were married in 1969 and went on to have two children: Matthew and Abigail.
Beginning in 1970, Sheila was an active member of South Church. From the get-go, her introduction to Jesus ignited such a passionate faith, that it changed the way she saw the world around her. Sheila was a prayer warrior, seeking God during her morning walks in the brisk air remembering the many people for whom she had promised to pray. She spent time pouring over her Bible until the pages were torn and her markings prevalent. Opening her home, she hosted and facilitated Bible studies, encouraging other women in their walks with God. As a lifetime deaconess, she faithfully visited and prayed with those who were homebound or living in nursing homes. She served on the women’s ministry team, using her phenomenal administration skills to help coordinate retreats and other events.
In 1973, Sheila had her first baby followed a few years later by her second. At that point, she decided to stop her work as a secretary and devote her life to raising her children. From the first years of changing diapers, feeding and cuddling to the academic years, Sheila was intimately involved in her children’s lives. During their elementary years, she consistently volunteered in their classes, even taking on the role of the “art lady” who came in to lead crafts. Sheila didn’t miss a day of waving at her children as the bus drove by—much to the dismay of her pre-teen son. As her children grew, she was at every sporting event as their number one fan. Her home was always open to her children’s friends.
In 2005, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Immediately, her mind went to others. After experiencing the fears and hardships of cancer, she desired to provide a safe place for women who have been diagnosed with cancer. And so the cancer support group, I Will Survive and Thrive, was born at South Church. For the past 18 years, this group has walked together, encouraging one another on their cancer journeys, with Sheila’s tender heart at the center of it.
In the following years, after her treatment, Sheila was promoted to the position of Grammie. She was her grandchildren’s number one cheerleader. Her fun spirit led to elegant tea parties with her epic tea cup collection, shopping sprees, dance parties, sleepovers, crafts, game nights, My Little Pony adventures in the family room, movies with popcorn and so much more.
Able to find joy in every moment, Sheila’s laughter was contagious. She would relentlessly tease others and enjoyed being on the receiving end of it as well. Many board and card games were played around her dining room table and Sheila could emote and dramatize with the best of them. This joy overflowed into dozens of journals filled with reflections and poetry, much of which was a blessing to those around her.
Sheila’s creativity wasn’t confined to her writing. She loved to quilt by hand, often working on her most recent project in the car as she and her husband took a road trip every year to winter in Florida. As an avid walker and a lover of the beach, Florida’s sandy shores were her heaven on earth.
In 2018, Sheila heard the dreaded words, “stage four metastatic breast cancer.” And yet she refused to let it crush her upbeat spirit. She stepped out in greater determination to enjoy every moment and be a blessing to others. Continuing with her cancer support group and spending time with friends, Sheila maintained her faithfulness in praying for others. Text after text can be found on her phone, inquiring about others’ needs and expressing love and hope in the midst of her own fight with cancer.
Though she fought for four years, her body finally succumbed to the cancer. As the great Abraham Lincoln once said, “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” Sheila Elizabeth’s 78 years were filled with life.
Surviving are: her husband of 54 years, James Rynbrandt; son, Matthew Rynbrandt; daughter, Abigail (Jeffrey) House; grandchildren, Donovan, Claire, Savannah, Paige and Declan; and her sister, Sharon (Terry) Graham.
The funeral service will be held at 11:00 a.m. Friday, January 20, 2023, at South Church, 5250 Cornerstone Dr., Lansing. Her family will receive friends at the Estes-Leadley Greater Lansing Chapel from 4:00 – 7:00 p.m. Thursday, as well as one hour prior to the funeral service at the church on Friday.
A livestream of Sheila’s funeral service will be held on the church’s website: https://southlife.org/funeral/
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Women’s Ministry at South Church in memory of Sheila Rynbrandt. Online condolences may be left for her family at www.EstesLeadley.com.