Cover photo for Rheyma J. Gruber's Obituary
Rheyma J. Gruber Profile Photo
1934 Rheyma 2024

Rheyma J. Gruber

December 28, 1934 — March 29, 2024


Rheyma Jean Rutter Gruber, nee Smith, passed away peacefully in the presence of her loving daughters at the age of 89. 

Rheyma entered the world on December 28, 1934, in Tecumseh, Michigan, born to Forrest Rankin Smith and Dorothy Irene Williams Smith. During her youth, the family relocated to Elyria, Ohio, and later briefly resided in Phoenix, Arizona. After graduating from Elyria High School in 1952, Rheyma tied the knot with her high-school sweetheart, James Paul Rutter, the following year. They made their home in Elyria, where Rheyma worked as a secretary before embarking on her lifelong vocation as a devoted mother and homemaker. Together, they nurtured and raised four daughters: Sarah Ann Pepper (Ray), Susan Lynn Divine (James), Barbara Jean Nitchman (Brady), and Beth Rutter. 

Over the course of the next two decades, Rheyma and her family journeyed through the states following Jim’s employment, including Elyria, Long Beach, California, Carpentersville, Illinois, Ft. Wayne, Indiana, and Plymouth, Michigan. Despite the challenges of uprooting and leaving cherished places and friends behind, Rheyma steadfastly provided a sense of stability and warmth wherever they went. She not only excelled in her role as a homemaker but also demonstrated exceptional skill as a seamstress, a talent inherited from her mother and passed down to each of her daughters. Among her favorite sewing projects were aprons, which were a perfect representation of her happy servant soul bringing warmth, food, and hospitality to the ones she loved. 

Throughout her life, Rheyma remained actively involved in the Methodist Church community, serving as a Sunday School teacher and assuming leadership roles in various church committees. For many years, she served as the chair of the Worship and Arts Committee at Gull Lake United Methodist Church. Mission work held a special place in Rheyma's heart, leading her to travel to distant locations to aid in rebuilding homes following floods and other natural disasters. 

Following the passing of her husband, Jim, in 1987, Rheyma relocated to Kalamazoo, Michigan, to be closer to her extended family. While now close to family, Rheyma also discovered a remarkable new circle of friends within the community of Gull Lake United Methodist Church. There, she formed instant and lasting connections with several women who swiftly became her closest confidantes and companions. 

In 2004, Rheyma embarked on a new chapter in life when she married Russ Gruber, who himself had experienced the loss of a spouse. Together, they shared 20 years of joy, 18 years married, until Russ's passing in 2022. Their union brought unexpected happiness, marked by exciting travels across all 50 states by car, plane, bus, and cruise ship, where they easily made friends wherever they went. Rheyma cherished her role as a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, finding immense joy in her family's company. Blessed with 4 daughters, 16 grandchildren, and 39 great-grandchildren, she took pride in sharing this remarkable count with everyone she met, earning endearing nicknames like "Gramma Rhey" and "Grammie." Her legacy lives on through the love she bestowed upon her extensive family. She often told friends and family “I sure got a great return for my investment!” This includes 4 sets of twins. 

Rheyma was cherished in her sisterhood at Gull Lake Methodist Church with many years of sharing and providing meals, honorable duty serving her community, all while keeping her sense of humor and humble heart. In keeping her sense of fun and zest for life, Rheyma delighted in adventure with travel and her volunteer missions, hosting lively 4th of July gatherings in the backyard, attending parades, and engaging in various antics with her girlfriends. 

Rheyma was preceded in death by her first husband of 34 years, James Rutter, her daughter Sarah Pepper, her brother Forrest (Bub) Smith, and her second husband, Russ Gruber. She is survived by her daughters Susan Divine (James), Barbara Nitchman (Brady), and Beth Rutter, her brother David Smith, cousins Connie Knauf and Nancy Fierbaugh, several nieces and nephews, step-daughter Kathy Howard, step-grandson Andrew Hibbard, along with her treasured 16 grandchildren: Jennifer Ossiff (Cary), Ryan Pepper (Angela), Katy Reuss (Nathan), Jordan Divine (Kayla), Hannah Divine (Lindsey), Ellen Dreps (Jeremy), Joel Nitchman (Piper), Amy Schmeding (Michael), Susan Martinchek (Michael), Michael Nitchman (Bridget), Gabriel Graveldinger (Hannah), Caleb Graveldinger (Amy), Clare Grabinski (Daniel), Grace Grabinski (Michael), Peter Graveldinger, Rheyma Graveldinger, and 39 great-grandchildren (Peyton, Ella, Otto, Autumn, Alissa, Charlotte, Cruz, Aidan, Andrew, Jameson, Anna Beth, Harper, Emmett, Elise, Rowen, Thompson, Joseph, Chase, Eli, Evelyn, John, Lenna, Harlowe, Marcus, Josie, Aurora, David, James, Heidi, Hazel, Stella, Laura, Leland, Charlie, Lila, Brayden, Henry and 2 due May 2024) 

Rheyma's family and friends are invited to gather on Sunday, April 7, 2024, for visitation from 2:00-3:00 pm, followed by a service starting at 3:30 pm at Gull Lake United Methodist Church, located at 8640 Gull Road, Richland, MI. A light supper will be served at the church directly after the service. In honoring Rheyma's spirit of generosity, friends and family are kindly asked to bring and wear one of the aprons she lovingly crafted.  Arrangements by the Farley Estes Dowdle Funeral Home & Cremation Care, Richland Chapel.  Personal messages for the family may be placed at  

As a tribute to Rheyma's love of all the activities Beacon Pointe Assisted Living, those wishing to make a monetary donation in her memory can do so at: 

checks payable to:
Beacon Pointe
memo - for Rheyma Gruber Activity Fund 

send to
Beacon Pointe Assisted Living 8774 N. 32nd St
Richland, MI 49083

Service Schedule

Past Services


Sunday, April 7, 2024

2:00 - 3:00 pm (Eastern time)

Gull Lake United Methodist Church

8640 Gull Rd, Richland, MI 49083

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Memorial Service

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Starts at 3:30 pm (Eastern time)

Gull Lake United Methodist Church

8640 Gull Rd, Richland, MI 49083

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Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


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