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Roger "Rocky" Matheson Rathburn

Roger "Rocky" Matheson Rathburn
/ Categories: Obituary

Roger "Rocky" Matheson Rathburn

December 26, 2017

Service Details


Funeral Services for Mr. Roger Rathburn will be held at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 30, 2017 at the Riverside Church of Three Rivers, 207 E. Michigan Ave., Three Rivers, MI., with Pastor Paul Booko officiating.



Obituary Notice

Roger “Rocky” Matheson Rathburn, age 55, passed away tragically on Tuesday, December 26, 2017. He was born to Roger and Sally Rathburn on August 29, 1962 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Roger graduated from Hackett High School in 1981 where he met his high school sweetheart and lifelong love, Susan Reisterer. He graduated from Western Michigan University where he earned a Bachelors and Masters degree in Education. Roger and Susan were married July 20, 1985 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. They had three children together, Amanda (Trevor McEnroe), Andrew, and Emily (Blake Colbert) who were his proudest achievements. Roger started his teaching career in South Bend, Indiana and moved to an administrative position in Edwardsburg, Michigan. Eventually they made their home in Three Rivers, Michigan where Roger started as a High School Assistant Principal and progressed to Superintendent of Three Rivers Schools for thirteen years. After retiring from Three Rivers Schools, Roger wasn’t able to remain idle long. His love for impacting children’s lives and education lead him to become the part time Superintendent of Mendon Schools. Roger was a visionary leader, a generous administrator, and “champion of kids.” Countless will forever cherish his memory. He used his kindness, enthusiasm, and unparalleled commitment to transform not only the school districts he worked in but also those around him. Roger, or as close friends and family know him as Rocky, will remain in the hearts of his family and the community as a beloved, husband, father, son, brother, leader, and friend.




In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the Roger “Rocky” Rathburn Memorial Scholarship Fund c/o Three Rivers Foundation. The link for online donations please go to Envelopes will be available at the church.


To watch Rocky’s service online please go to

James “Jim” Lemuel Bippus of Three Rivers, 85, passed away in his home surrounded by family on Wednesday, December 20, 2017. Jim had recently been admitted to Borgess Hospital due to complications related to kidney dialysis. When treatments became unsuccessful he determined he would leave this world on his own terms and in his own way. He was an ordinary man that lived an extraordinary life.

Jim was born in Bucyrus, Ohio on September 14, 1932, the youngest child of the late James and Blanch Bippus. When he was seven, his father died and Jim and his five sisters were then raised alone by Blanch, a resilient and strong woman who devoted her life to serving in the Salvation Army.

Jim enlisted into the United States Army. During his service, he earned The National Service Defense Medal. He was honorably discharged from the Army in September of 1955.

Jim attended Ohio State University taking advantage of the G.I. Bill and earned his Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering. During a six month internship at Essex Wire in Fort Wayne, Jim met and fell in love with Vera H. Mohre; they married in 1958. Jim became employed full time at Essex and took a transfer to Three Rivers, with Vera, and his now six children in tow.

The Essex position didn’t work out the way Jim had imagined, so he quit. After a few months of soul searching he saw the for rent sign in the closed Standard Service Station on Michigan Avenue. So Jim took the test to become a certified mechanic and passed it easily with no formal training. He and Vera opened the station and people started coming.

In 1987 he purchased what would become the Bippus Shell Station on the corner of 131 and Michigan Avenue. Many in the community came to know him for his trustworthy service in auto repair. But more than that, people admired the Bippus family: Vera at the cash register and their children pumping gas, helping to fix cars, or doing inventory on New Year’s Day. In 1997 the station was renovated and instead of offering car repair, now had a restaurant called Vera’s, another sign of Jim’s great love for his wife. Over the years Jim’s business became a cornerstone of the community: a place people met for coffee or lunch and were greeted with warmth and hospitality.

In 2012 Jim and Vera were voted Three River’s Citizens of the Year by the Lion’s Club for their many contributions to the town. Jim made doughnuts on Sunday mornings for the Immaculate Conception Church, read to children at Andrews School, mentored a young student, participated in the County Infrastructure Committee, collected turtles for the Lion’s Club Turtle Derby, and taught auto shop to adults. With his snow plow he kept the Immaculate Conception Church and the Lion’s Club parking lot plowed for free, and also routinely plowed out driveways for others.

Jim was a great lover of classical music. He enjoyed reading books by Thomas Clancy, John Grisham, and James Patterson. He also was a great fan of The Wall Street Journal. Jim loved to play cards and was part of a monthly poker group that met for over 30 years. He and Vera also played in a weekly bridge group for about the same number of years. Equally remarkable, Jim and Vera hosted weekly Sunday dinners for family members and anyone else that wanted to stop by. New people in town were warmly welcomed to the table.

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33 comments on article "Roger "Rocky" Matheson Rathburn"

Cindy Hetmansperger

I am so sorry for your loss. I wish I had the words to take your pain away. Roger always had a smile for everyone. You are in my prayers.

Jim & Jackie Drake

Our thoughts & parayers are with all of the family.

Roger will be missed.

Paul and Connie VanderWier

So sorry for your loss. We have such fond memories from our days in Three Rivers and working and associating with Roger and family. Rocky was an all around great person who will be missed by all.

Bailey Moyer

This saddens me greatly, I know I’m sorrys don’t make up for the loss but I cry for you and yours, I’m finishing my last year at mendon high school and Mr.Rathburn was an amazing part of my experience. I am so glad to have met him and I am so very sorry for your loss.

Mike Charvat & family

Sue (Susan, Susie), your husband was clear with his love for you. He was papa proud of all his kids; Amanda so organized and compassionate, Andrew such a free spirit, full of wonder, and Emily maybe the most like him.

I wanted to let you know the positive impact Rocky had on each one of my family members. I am happy to call him a friend and will always remember his unique combination of professionalism and his ability to be down to earth. I don’t know that exact term, but my buddy Rocky would.

I pray that this difficult time for you and your family is eased by the knowledge that he was truly happy with his place in life.


The Charvat’s.

Mike Charvat & family

Sue (Susan, Susie), your husband was clear with his love for you. He was papa proud of all his kids; Amanda so organized and compassionate, Andrew such a free spirit, full of wonder, and Emily maybe the most like him.

I wanted to let you know the positive impact Rocky had on each one of my family members. I am happy to call him a friend and will always remember his unique combination of professionalism and his ability to be down to earth. I don’t know that exact term, but my buddy Rocky would.

He lived life the way we are all supposed to - working or golfing a smile was always on his face.

Phyllis E Lehman-Ward

Roger gave me the opportunity to be where I belong when he hired me. He ran a great ship and I feel very fortunate to have been a part of the voyage. He's forever in our hearts @TRHS & MHS. Take comfort in your family & friends

dear Sue. We love you. Phyllis Lehman

Heather White

Deepest condolences. Growing up on Manhattan with the Rathburn family holds fond memories.

Kevin Hoffer

Dear Rathburn Family, Words can not soften the sorrow felt, I know all to well. I will simply say my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this very difficult time. The loss of your Husband, Dad, Brother and Friend is felt by many. I had the pleasure of working with Roger while he was the Super in Three Rivers as the company I worked for provided services to them. He was a great man who had the best interest of his students and staff first and on his mind. He worked hard to ensure they had everything they needed to learn and to do their jobs.

Rachael Dudley

So sorry for your loss. He had such a big impact on my children that go to Mendon Schools. He will definitely be missed!

Brea Bennett

My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this difficult time. Roger was a great man and made a huge impact in a lot of people's lives. He will be greatly missed.

Elena Meadows

My condolences on your loss. He worked hard for the district and made a lot of good things happen.

Brian McDaniel

Roger was a very special person who went out of his way to each day to talk with students, staff, and friends. He inspired everyone with his positive personality, funny stories, and his generosity. He will be truly missed. Our thoughts and prayers to Susan and the whole Rathburn family.

Jim and Julie Evans

Our experiences with Roger in education (Julie) and on the golf course (Jim) gave us the opportunity to recognize Roger’s zest for life, his humor and his intellect. We know how devoted he was to family and to his friends. We share your grief at this stunning loss and hope that as you all struggle through this difficult time, that you will one day find some comfort in all your memories and the solid knowledge of the love he had for his family and close friends. We will miss him, too!

ed & kay Jamerson

Roger and Sally- So sorry. Our heartfelt prayers are with you through this tragic event.

Christy and John Friedel

We are so sorry for your loss and the loss to the entire community. Roger became a dear friend brother of my heart over the many years we've known each other. I'm sure that you will be reading many comments like that. He told me when his brother was dying that his brother said that it was a shame that people don't treat everyone as good as they do someone who is dying. I think that's how Roger lived his life. He did so many things for the community that people never knew about, helped so many not only emotionally but financially. He was a huge help to me when my husband died...My prayers have been surrounding you since I heard of his passing. Love you, Christy

Jan & Ric Ellis

There are no words for your loss. Just know we are praying for your family during this very sad time.

Thomas Armstrong

Roger had a zest for life. His humor and generosity will be missed. He was a visionary. He always managed to bring out the best in people.

Carol Socha

My heartfelt sympathy to all of Roger's family. I only met him once, but heard many wonderful stories about him from our mutual great friend, Rob Olsen. Rob messaged me when he heard about the tragic accident. Hang onto each other, find joy in beautiful memories, and know that you are in the thoughts and prayers of many.

Jim Mernagh

Sue, Emily, Andrew and Amanda;

So sorry to hear of Rocky's passing. We will keep you and the rest of your family in our prayers.

Jim Mernagh

Nikki Holtz

My condolences. Roger welcomed me into the TR Community Schools family about 10 years ago. I appreciated his leadership. He always conveyed a level head and a warm heart.

Tom Schwemmin

Rathburn family; My thoughts and prayers are with you. I have not been in touch since childhood but I have very fond memories of your family . We all knew Rocky was something special as a kid and obviously he grew into that as an adult.

Best wishes;


Terry Dennis Jr. / Tbone

Rathburn family heaven got a champion Rocky was a great dad, friend, boss and mentor to many. He was a leader and an example to all. May God welcome him with open arms and watch over each one of you! R I P Rocky take your smile to Heaven as you did on earth .

Charlene and Joe Zavala

Dear Susan, Amanda, Andrew, and Emily,

We were so, so sorry to hear about Roger. As you know, he touched the life of so many people, including us and our children. He will be remembered for his zest for life, his family values, and his outgoing personality. Our hearts go out to all of you.

-- Charlene and Joe Zavala

Nailah Collier

My condolences to the family. I was a student of his 24 years ago! South Bend Washington High School. He was a fun and caring teacher.

Kim and Susan Hoppe

Dear Roger, Sally and your entire family,

We are so sad for you. This is such a great loss and no words can take away the hurt. It is obvious that you raised an incredible son, husband, father and brother and that Rocky is a well loved person. You have our prayers and may he rest in peace.

Love and hugs, Susan and Kim

The Muffley Family

Roger had a great sense of humor and was always looking for a better way to do things. Mel has great memories of working with him as his HS Secretary. She always had to remind him that was what she was there for, to help him. He surely loved you Susan and the children. He had great visions for each of them. He will be missed. Our prayers go out to you Susan & the family. The Muffleys (LeRoy, Mel & Scott)

Lisa Engelbreit Nash

Dear Sue, Amanda, Andrew and Emily.

I was very sad to hear of Rocky's passing. I am keeping you all in my prayers.

Stuart Parr and Family

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family's.

Shelley Romence-Whisman

Rocky is how I know him as my childhood friend. He and his family are the best! God will watch over you, and you will somehow find peace. To have lost two children in a lifetime is beyond words. May you find peace and comfort in God, family and friends.

Mark Adamczyk

So sorry to hear of Rocky’s sudden passing. Truly a fun-loving, compassionate person who will be missed. Our deepest sympathy.

Mark Adamczyk and the entire Adamczyk Family

Waneta Truckey

Sue and family, I, as many others, am heartbroken. He was like my own kid. Many times I would pull the chair up to his desk and say, “Listen to me, you are like one of my kids.” He would just laugh and say, “Okay.” Oh how I loved and appreciated him for all that he brought to the table. Even when he brought the B.B. Gun to the table. I have to believe that the story, as Roger told it, was one of his favorites. I think he told everyone he knew that story. Sooo many memories of him and such good times. He was a man of wisdom with the future of TRHS always in sight. He loved kids and appreciated the Three Rivers Community so much. His kindness and compassion will long be remembered. The Memorial was beautiful. My prayers are with you and his family. In the words of Dr. Seuss, “Death ends a life; Not a relationship.”

Dave & Donna Richmond

We are so very sorry for your loss. We know that he was a wonderful person and will be greatly missed. Christ be with you and your family.

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