Rhea Smurthwaite Weems Kroencke passed away peacefully in her sleep on February 22nd, 2019 due to complications following surgery at the age of 75. Rhea was born on November 24, 1943 in Cottonwood, Idaho to parents William “Bill” & Lena Taylor Smurthwaite of White Bird. She attended school in White Bird, Riggins, and Grangeville.
In 1961 Rhea married Art Weems and they had two daughters. They were later divorced. While working for Heckman Cattle Company in 1966 she met and married her life partner and best friend Johann “John” Kroencke. John had 2 children from a previous marriage and they added one more. They were blessed with 47 years of marriage before John passed away in 2014 due to cancer.
In addition to their 5 children they opened their home to exchange students from Denmark, Spain and Germany. They also seemed to always have extra grandchildren or other young people, who needed a home for a few days, sometimes longer.
Rhea worked as a ranch cook at Heckman Ranches and later at Kings River Ranch at Orovada, Nevada. In 1971 they moved to Silver Lake, Oregon where John worked and managed Viewpoint Ranches. They resided there 4 months shy of 30 years. During that time Rhea worked as a store clerk for 2 years, a Forestry Technician for 18 years, Water Monitor for the State Water Master for 4 years, she also served on the Silver Lake School Board for 4 years. In her spare time she worked on the ranch haying, farming, and keeping a home. Upon John’s retirement in 2000 they returned to her childhood home in White Bird. She spent 4 summers working for Emergency Services on forest fires for Bill & Bonnie Asker and Steve & Jan Spears. She was a faithful and dedicated member of The Royal Gem Rebekah Lodge no.13 in White Bird for 57 years having joined in 1962. In 2013 John and Rhea were honored by the Town of White Bird as the Grand Marshals of White Bird Days.
Rhea is survived by a son Dick & Marlene Kroencke of Christmas Valley, Oregon. Daughters, Maryann & Ed Carlin of White Bird, Dana Weems of Battle Mountain, Nevada, Nannette Weems of Grand Junction, Colorado, and Gerri Garner of Christmas Valley, Oregon. Brothers, Hal & Margie Smurthwaite of Grangeville and Dennis & June Smurthwaite of Pasco, Washington. She will also be missed by 11 Grandchildren, 19 Great Grandchildren, and 5 Great Great Grandchildren.
A graveside service will be held Friday, March 1, 2019 at 11:00 am at the White Bird Cemetery. A luncheon will follow at the IOOF Hall in White Bird. Arrangements are under the direction of the Blackmer Funeral Home of Grangeville. You may submit condolences online at Blackmerfuneralhome.com.
In Lieu of flowers, family suggests donation be made to the Rebekah’s Lodge #13 to the building fund.