leaderboard1 -

Robert D. Rhoads dead at 88

March 18, 2024
Robert D. Rhoads
Robert D. Rhoads

Robert D. Rhoads, 88, retired vice president and technical director of Schoenstein & Co., Benicia, California, died February 10 in Sonoma, California. Born in Burbank, California, his family moved to a farm in Sunnyside, Washington. Rhoads attended Simpson College in Washington and assisted in relocating the college to San Francisco. Part of that project was installing two campus pipe organs. In San Francisco, he earned an AA in electrical engineering from Cogswell College while working on installation and maintenance of industrial boilers.

In 1960 he started Robert D. Rhoads Pipe Organ Service. The following year he became an M. P. Möller representative, selling, installing, and servicing organs in the Northern California area. In 1970 he returned to Simpson College as head of maintenance and engineer of their radio station. When offered an opportunity to plan and install radio studio equipment and transmitters throughout the country, he became chief engineer of Family Radio, a national religious network.

After completing the radio broadcasting project in 1974, Rhoads again entered the organ business. He purchased a building and set up an organ shop, employing two full-time people besides his wife, Dolores. During the “pizza organ” craze, the firm renovated and installed many Wurlitzer organs.

In 1978 Rhoads Pipe Organ Service was purchased by Schoenstein & Co. Robert became factory manager, and Dolores manager of tuning service. Robert Rhoads was responsible for developing and refining the designs of nearly every component of the Schoenstein electric-pneumatic action system. He coordinated the engineering, production, and installation of all new organs as well as major rebuilding jobs. Some of his notable projects at Schoenstein were organs at St. Paul’s Parish, Washington, D.C., and First-Plymouth Congregational Church, Lincoln, Nebraska. He also supervised the restoration of the Mormon Tabernacle organ in Salt Lake City, Utah, and accomplished installing the façade of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Conference Center organ in Salt Lake City while the building was still under construction. 

In 1996 Rhoads was named vice president and technical director of Schoenstein & Co. In April 2003 he retired after 24 years of service. Robert D. Rhoads is survived by his wife Dolores, two children, and seven grandchildren.


Other recent obituaries:

James Elwin McCray

James Wyly

Robert Charles Shone