School 07

Sydney Ann Rieckhoff

September 21, 1941 ~ November 18, 2020 (age 79)


Sydney Ann (Plaut) Rieckhoff passed away on Wednesday, November 18th, 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 27th, 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 step-children, 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; one brother, David Plaut, of McKinney, TX also survives.  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 send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Sydney Ann Rieckhoff, please visit our floral store.


Family to do services at later date


19670 St. Rd. 120, Bristol IN 46507

Child and Parent Services
1000 W. Hively, Elkhart IN 46517

Loveway, Inc.
54151 C.R. 33, Middlebury IN 46540

Samaritan Center
311 W. High St., Elkhart IN 46516

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