Valerie Dee (Heitzman) Rickenberg passed away peacefully on Thursday, March 9, 2023, at her home in Grand Rapids, Ohio with family by her side.
She was a much-beloved wife, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, and friend. A stranger to absolutely no one, Valerie was as selflessly kind in life as she was endlessly optimistic—an effortlessly bright spirit whose compassion, laughter, and boundless energy will carry on in the hearts of absolutely everyone who knew her.
Born to George and Dorothy (Lesh) Heitzman in Lima, Ohio, Valerie grew up in rural Putnam County before moving to Grand Rapids when she was three, where her family established their farm. After graduating from Grand Rapids High School in 1967, she earned a degree in Health and Physical Education from Bowling Green State University. Valerie had a long teaching career—most notably as a special education teacher at Otsego High School. She coached a variety of sports including cheerleading, basketball, and volleyball. For many years, she served as the assistant athletic director at Otsego, as well as the band director for Buckeye Girls State. She was also very active in church, regularly teaching Sunday school and participating in choir. Valerie attended the First Presbyterian Church before later becoming a member of the Hosanna Lutheran Church.
Valerie cherished nothing more than the time that she spent with her family, be it canoeing, camping, cheering for the Buckeyes, or watching any of her 13 grandchildren at their various activities. She had an indomitable spirit that was as much an inspiration as it is now a reminder to live every day to its fullest.
Valerie is survived by her husband, James “Jim” Rickenberg; her children Brian (Heather) Hughes, Carrie Fuhr, Angie (Andy) Ehmke, Leah (Adam) Budke, and Anna (Mike) Evans; her sister Gloria (Randy) Box; her grandchildren Ethan, Connor, and Hannah Hughes; Elliott, Oliver, and Mallory Fuhr; Julia and Eva Ehmke; Joey, Eli, and Simon Budke; Caroline and Sam Evans; and her nieces and nephews Alison (Richard) Boger, Leslie (Edward) Wolfram, and Neil (Cheri Vollmar) Box. Valerie was preceded in death by her parents George and Dorothy, and her sister Pricilla Joy Heitzman.
A memorial service will be held at Hosanna Lutheran Church, 23019 Kellogg Rd, Grand Rapids, OH, on Sunday, March 19th, 2023 at 4PM. Visitation will take place prior to the service, starting at 1PM. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to Otsego Athletic Boosters or Hosanna Lutheran Church.
Arrangements by Weigel Funeral Home (419.826.2631).