Trust the Torch!

Sharon Ann (Van Riper) Reyes

Born on September 11, 1943 in Muskegon, Michigan to parents Marshall and Lois (Hall) Van Riper, Sharon Ann (Van Riper) Reyes began her childhood in a small home on Spring St. in Muskegon—a place where her parents also started their lifelong printing business, Lakeshore Printing, her mother sometimes taking wedding orders in the living room while watching little Sharon. She lived along Spring St. with her younger sister & brother, Daughn & Tim, until she was a teenager, when the family moved to a home on Lake Harbor Rd. in Norton Shores—a place where later Sharon & her husband, Leo, would bring their three children, Rodney, Wendy & Malissa, to spend Thanksgivings & summer days with their grandparents & cousins.

Before those children were a glint in Sharon’s eye, she spent her summer days walking the trail through Whitie’s Woods across the street from her Norton Shores’ home, trekking all the way past the sand dunes to swim in Lake Michigan—another place where later Sharon & Leo would bring their children and play with them in its white sands & clear water. Outside of those summers, she spent her days at Muskegon Senior High School, where she graduated in 1961. 

After high school, her childhood friend Susan (Johnson) Stroud helped convince Sharon to make the leap out of Muskegon and join her at nursing school in Chicago. Despite her nerves over leaving (& being accepted to the school), soon she was moving to the big city to attend Mt. Sinai Hospital School of Nursing. At nursing school, Sharon met her lifelong best friend, Carol Kaplan; the two soul-sisters kept alive perpetual friendships with their whole gang of Mt. Sinai classmates, often through their 50-year involvement in the alumni association & the group’s annual weekend-long gatherings. 

After graduating nursing school in August of 1965, she continued to work at Mt. Sinai as a pediatric nurse—and it was there that Sharon met the love of her life, a young Filipino pediatrician, Leo, her husband for nearly 55 years.The two married on July 12, 1969, at St. Catherine of Siena Church in Oak Park, IL—in a beautiful ceremony & reception that Sharon meticulously planned. That same summer, the newlyweds moved overseas to Leo’s hometown, Cebu City, in the Philippines—where their first child, Rodney, would be born in June, 1970.

Sharon & her young family returned to the U.S. in the summer of 1971, first moving to Forest Park, IL outside Chicago, then Woodstock, IL—to an apartment along St. John’s Rd., just down the street from the church that she walked to with Rodney for pre-school at Kids Unlimited. And it was at this apartment that Sharon welcomed their first daughter, Wendy, in May, 1972. Not long after Wendy was born, the family moved to a new home in the pine trees along Deerpath Rd. just outside of town—the home where Sharon would raise her family and live for the rest of her long, love-filled life.

In November 1974, they had their third child, Malissa, and Sharon’s lifelong passion and journey was now in full motion: a total dedication to being an extraordinary, unflappable Mom & Grandma. In that home on Deerpath Rd., she provided her children (& later her grandchildren) with an endless bounty of love, affection, understanding, care & commitment. Year-after-year as her children grew, she was there for everything— supporting, preparing, consoling, cajoling, celebrating. 

Along the way Sharon assiduously planned, recorded & journaled a lifetime of family events & activities—providing a decades-long handwritten trail of memories to be returned to anytime by all who partook. And the breadth of her commitment & affection for extended family was shown in another of Sharon’s devotions: the hundreds of birthday, holiday, anniversary & milestone cards she individually (& unfailingly) selected & sent every year to every cousin, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, in-law & more. 

After raising her children, Sharon began to spend some of her days again at Leo’s side, like their Mt. Sinai years—serving as nurse (& sometimes receptionist) at his solo family medical practice on Judd St. in Woodstock. And even after her children had grown, she continued for many years to volunteer at the library of their school, Northwood (turned Mary Andres) Elementary—something she started in 1975. 

She also continued another devoted passion that began in the early 1970s—cuddling & coddling a never-ending cadre of cats & dogs that she loved & cared for like children. (She shared her care with other animals too, making decades of donations to wildlife organizations, and providing dead-of-winter provisions to her backyard wildlife.) 

Between it all, Sharon & Leo have been dedicated travelers & tourists—going by plane, train & automobile (sometimes with a pop-up camper or a tent in the back) coast-to-coast, state-to-state, overseas to Europe & back to the Philippines. Some of her most precious times were the 40 years of annual, full-family (& extended family) summer trips to the beaches of the Atlantic Coast, first Assateague Island in Maryland, then the islands of North Carolina’s Outer Banks—making her final family trip to the shores of Rodanthe just last summer. 

In her later years, nothing gave her greater joy than her seven granddaughters, Kylia, Julia, Vivienne, Erica, Camellia, Henrietta & Josephine. She was never happier than any moment when she was surrounded by her gaggle of girls—at Christmas, on the beach, around a table playing mahjong, or watching one of their many self-choreographed all-granddaughter dances. It was her grand & fortunate reward for all her years of devotion to her family: basking in the warm glow of her grandchildren’s love & happiness, laughing with her children, and sharing everything always with her cherished, lifelong partner in it all, Leo.

Her rich 80-year journey came to a close on April 17, 2024—at a hospital not far from her Deerpath Rd. home, surrounded by the love of family, Sharon passed away peacefully in a bed beside her two daughters & Leo. 

Family and friends will gather to celebrate her life on Sunday, June 23, 1–4 PM at the Woodstock Country Club, 10310 Country Club Rd. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Sharon’s name to: Helping Paws Animal Shelter, 2500 Harding Ln, Woodstock, IL 60098; Woodstock Rescue Squad, 435 E. Judd St., Woodstock, IL 60098; St. Joseph’s Indian School, 1301 N. Main St., Chamberlain, SD; New City Church, Naperville, IL

Sharon was preceded in death by her mother Lois Van Riper, and father Marshall Van Riper. She is survived by husband Leo Reyes, son Rodney (Rebecca Mattie) Reyes, daughters Wendy (Shane) Waltmire and Malissa (Hamish Talbot) Reyes; grandchildren Kylia, Julia and Erica Waltmire, Vivienne and Camellia Reyes, and Henrietta and Josephine Talbot; sister Daughn (Ken) Forbes, and brother Timothy (Pat) Van Riper; and her loyal canine companion, Winston.

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