Oct 30, 1933 – Jan 2, 2022
Saturday, January 22, 2022 – 2:00 pm (MST)
Zoom credentials: 780 471 4115 – Passcode: 1914
Rhona Overbo (nee Shaw), passed away at 88 years of age. She was born October 30, 1933, in Viking, Alberta, and is survived by her three children, Bonny Bowes (Richard), Douglas Overbo (Dana), and Karol Elsalah (Jamal). She also leaves behind her two beloved grandchildren, Bilal and Jenan; and two sisters, Alice Jones (Bob) and Lorna Shaw.
Rhona was predeceased by her husband, Lawrence Overbo; as well as her parents, Jack and Hazel Shaw; four sisters, Joan Shaw, Edith Jensen, Joyce Bergseth and Blanche Jones; and two brothers, Clifford Shaw and George Shaw.
She died on January 2, 2022, in the Norwood Hospice Centre.
Rhona grew up on her parents’ farm south of Viking, near Sedgewick, Alberta. Her parents had a mixed farm – crop, chickens, pigs, cattle, and dairy cows. She milked cows morning and evening; and horseback was her mode of transportation to school. She loved being a farmer. The love of growing things never left her. One day, a neighbour who Rhona had hired to rototill her garden commented afterwards: It’s been years since I saw a garden this big. Were you a farmer? After the garden was planted, Rhona would walk around her property. If there was a patch of ground with nothing growing on it, Rhona would plunk in a potato.
She took seriously her responsibility of being the eldest child. Her father reminded her often that she must fly straight as her younger siblings would be imitating her. She never lost sight of the importance of being exemplary.
She always had a desire to be a good person. At a young age, she took correspondence Bible courses through a Bible college. When she left home to get a job in Edmonton, her mother gave her a leather-bound copy of the King James Version of the Bible, which she cherished.
In July of 1951, Rhona moved to Edmonton. She was 17. One day a neighbour of hers from the farm, Hazel Overbo, asked if they could get a place together. Hazel said that she could get her cousin to help them move and that he had a friend who had a car. That cousin was Lawrence Overbo. Move day was March 1952.
There was an instant attraction. After the move, Rhona hoped that Lawrence would call her. Two days later, he did. A strong friendship developed between them which soon progressed to love. They were engaged in December 18, 1953, and were married on August 14, 1954.
At first, they moved into a two-room upstairs suite that was “not so good,” to take Rhona’s words. It was a few blocks from Lawrence’s parents, Lewis and Maud Overbos’. Then they moved across the street from Lawrence’s parents on 111 Avenue and 95 Street. They were there when Bonny was born. It was a nice basement suite, but too small for when Doug was coming.
So they moved again, but this time to the south side, into another basement suite. It was a widow’s home. She needed the money. It had a bigger bedroom, but it was still only one bedroom with two cribs in it.
Doug had been hospitalized, and the doctor told Lawrence and Rhona that Doug had to get out of the basement or he would not survive. Lawrence, by himself, went to Alice Overby, his aunt, and borrowed $2,000 as a down payment to buy a little house in Beverly. They moved to their new home in 1954. It took them years to pay the money back. It was the only home they ever lived in.
Five years after Doug coming into the world, Lawrence and Rhona welcomed another little girl, Karol, into their lives. She was born premature. It took a month before Karol weighed 5 pounds and could be taken home. “She was like a new song in our household, a beautiful song,” Rhona said. “That’s why I named her Karol.” Often times Rhona would comment on how fitting that name was as Karol has a beautiful singing voice.
Rhona’s desire to draw close to God grew as her family grew. In 1961, she started to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. She was baptized on May 11, 1963. An elderly neighbour, Violet Smallwood, was her Bible teacher and trained her in the house-to-house ministry.
One day, Sister Smallwood told her: “I will not always be with you. You have to learn how to do this on your own. So today, we are going to work separately. I will start at this end of the block, and you can start at the other end. With trepidation, Rhona approached her first home. She saw a lady working in the garden of her backyard. The lady was very nice and accepted a subscription to the Watchtower. Her name was Mary Kitt. As Rhona was leaving the yard, Mary called out: “Oh, I have a renter who lives downstairs in my basement. You should call on her.”
Rhona thought: Oh, no. I don’t think I have the nerves to do another call. But she went back to the house, went down the stairs, and called on the lady living there. Rhona started a bible study of her own with this lady. Her name was Beth Ogdan. Both Mary Kitt and Beth Ogdan came into the truth.
That experience galvanized in Rhona’s mind how Jehovah blesses efforts to help others, even if you feel inadequate and not up to the task.
Rhona also loved the public ministry, using our literature carts. Before the days of COVID, the Highlands Congregation used to have two literature carts outside of the Belvedere LRT station. As traffic backed up and motorists were waiting for the train to pass, some motorists or their passengers would wind down the window and ask for a copy of our magazines. Rhona was only too happy to oblige.
On December 3, 2021, Rhona went into the hospital and was later diagnosed with rapidly-spreading cancer. Mesmerised by how quickly the disease had spread, Rhona commented: “In a way, I am encouraged. I went from not feeling well to being terminally ill within days. So when I am resurrected, if my body is not quite perfect, I am sure that Jehovah will use this same process to fix me up very quickly.”
Rhona had a deep love for her children and grandchildren. A small handwritten note was found in her wallet that contained this scripture: Proverbs 17: 6: Grandsons are a crown to the aged. She loved Bilal and Jenan, and the number of fridge magnets on her fridge with their picture on it can attest to that.
It must be mentioned that Rhona had a special fondness for her siblings too. At their yearly “clan gathering,” after everyone had gone to bed, the siblings would stay up until the wee hours of the morning, reminiscing and laughing and retelling stories that had been told many times before but were just as funny as the first time they were heard. They liked being together. They laughed together, and they could laugh at each other.
When Bonny would visit her mother in the hospital, Rhona would say: “I would like to talk to Lorna.” Or she would say: “I need to talk to Alice tonight.” She would prop herself up and try to talk to them in her “strong” voice so that they would not worry about her.
Rhona was a generous person – generous with her worldly goods and generous with her commendation. Her parents stayed with her when going to the cancer clinic; her nephews stayed with her while they went to school. When going through a little box of Rhona’s “precious things,” her children found a letter written to her from Alice, her sister, thanking her for the dress and chocolates Rhona had sent her. That letter, written in pencil by 7-year-old Alice, was over 70 years old and was neatly tucked beside the Title to her house and other important documents. She loved Alice.
Rhona often wore a particular pretty silk scarf. She enjoyed telling others that it was something her youngest sister, Lorna, had gotten her during a trip to Turkey. Rhona was proud to have a sister 20 years her junior.
Rhona drew courage and strength from attending her Christian meetings. She often commented: “God gave us two gifts: the family and the congregation.” Even on her sickbed, just days before dying, she was asked if she felt up to attending the meeting. She quickly responded: “It’s God’s arrangement. Of course, I want to attend.”
After the Tuesday Zoom meeting, at around 9:20, a nurse came into Rhona’s private room. The nurse said: I like the song you were singing. We could hear it all the way down to the nurses’ station. Then he asked what congregation she was in. Rhona was so elated to see that there was a brother on her floor. He gave her a big hug. It was exactly what she needed.
Before Rhona went into the hospital for the last time, she wanted her hair cut and coloured. Lillian Cardwell, her trusty hairdresser for decades, came over to the house to do that for her. “You can feel terrible, but you don’t have to look it. When I fall off my perch, I want to look good at least.”
Psalm 73: 26 summarizes how Rhona felt as she lay in her hospital bed at the Norwood Hospice: “My body and my heart may fail, but God is the rock of my heart and my portion forever.”
Her family was with her when she drew her last breath. It was as she wanted it – family together until the end.
She will be deeply missed.