Born in Germany, Riekehof came to the United States and at age 25 she worked as a missionary and musician at Washington D.C.'s Calvary Gospel Church. Among her other responsibilities was being an overseer of a home for Christian working women. There she met a deaf women who taught her a few signs each week. Her curiosity peeked, Riekehof took classes at Gallaudet University to learn sign language. Seeing how gifted she was learning signing, Central Bible College invited her to become an instructor with them even though Riekehof lacked a degree. As she taught, Riekehof also studied to earn her bachelor's degree. She would later receive her master's and a Ph.D. from New York University.
While serving as the dean of women at Central Bible College and teaching signing, Riekehof saw a book about American Indian sign language drawings. She then created a book for the deaf called American Sign Language
and had it published by a former student. This book was revised with added illustrations to become Talk to the Deaf
before Riekehof made a more updated version entitled The Joy of Signing
. Used around the world, The Joy of Signing
allows parents to communicate easier with their deaf children, and it enables children to match signs with words, thus increasing their vocabulary. A strong proponent of deaf education and deaf ministry Riekehof hopes to see more church services for the deaf and an increased emphasis on deaf missions. Retired since 1990, Riekehof lives in Arlington, Virginia.
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