Rhea Gaynelle Sikes departed this Earthly life on November 5, 2019
A native of Greensboro, NC, she graduated from Greensboro High School (now Grimsley and attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, majoring in Art, with a minor in Drama. She earned her master’s degree from Syracuse University in a new media called “Television”.
In 1955, Rhea joined the staff of WQED Pittsburgh’s Educational Television Station, which was the first in the World to offer “basic instruction to children in schools”. Within four years, the TV classroom mushroomed from 20 to 1,400, involving 77 school districts in western Pennsylvania. Rhea was the Director of WQED’s School Services. One of Rhea’s co-workers was Fred Rogers (“Mister Rogers”). By the time she retired in 1978, she had risen to the role of National Children’s Program Director for PBS (Public Broadcasting System – Washington, DC).
During her career, she earned the prestigious “Peabody” Award and was recognized by her peers as a “Tele-Visionary” for her pioneering and creative work in the field of Television.
Upon her retirement in 1978, Rhea moved to Washington Island and built her home in the trees near Jackson Harbor. She loved nothing more than sitting on her beach and looking out toward Rock Island, puttering in her yard and participating in the Island’s activities – especially in support of its history, music, art and drama.
She truly considered the people on the Island to be the best in the world. After living in several different cities around the country, after her move to the Island, she saw very little need to travel elsewhere. Although she was born as a southerner, she always considered Washington Island to be her true home.
Rhea is survived by her niece, Gale Sikes of San Francisco, CA; nephews, Tom Sikes (wife, Eva Yoder and sons, Ian & Lee) of Big Island, VA and Nathan Sikes (wife, Donna, children, Jonathan, Alex, Rebekah, grandchildren, Nora & Callie) of Summerfield, NC, Stephen Sikes (wife, Heather and children, Riley, Grace, and Ben) of Juneau, Alaska, and Eric Sikes (wife, Anne Pfauth) of Santa Fe, NM; and her step-mother, Mary Ann Sikes of Greensboro, NC.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Dr. and Mrs. T.E. Sikes (Clio); brothers, Dr. T. Edgar Sikes, Jr. (wife, Betty Gale) of Greensboro, NC and Lyndon Ogburn Sikes (wife, Beverly) of Anchorage, Alaska.
The family would like to thank Rhea’s special friends, Betty & Leon Shellswick, Mary & Bill Bassett, and Eileen Cornell of Washington Island; as well as the members of Rhea’s “Wrap-around Group” that provided additional in-home care – enabling her to remain in her home before residing in Hearthside Cordial Care in Sister Bay. A special thanks goes to Martha Coventry and the Staff of Hearthside Cordial Care for their excellent, outstanding, care, kindness, and compassion, during the last four years of Rhea’s life.
A Memorial Service for Rhea will be held June 8, 2020 at 1:00 p.m. at Trinity Ev. Lutheran Church on Washington Island. In Lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorials be made to the Washington Island Rescue Squad, the Washington Island Community Health Program (WICHIP), or the Washington Island Music Festival.
Casperson Funeral Home & Cremation Services of Sister Bay are assisting the Sikes family. Expressions of sympathy, memories, and photos of Rhea may be shared with her family through her tribute page at www.caspersonfuneralhome.com.
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