OBITUARY

Michele A. Bleeke

November 15, 1946January 1, 2019
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Michele A. Bleeke (Biase) was born on November 15th, 1946 in Orange, NJ. She grew up on Riggs Place in West Orange under the care of her father and mother, Michael Biase and Antoinette Capasso. She graduated from West Orange High School in 1964 and Montclair State University in 1968. She continued to live in West Orange for most of her adult life until January 1st, 2019, when she passed away peacefully at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, NJ at the age of 72. She is survived by her loving children, Jenna Bleeke and Christopher Bleeke, as well as their father Jeff Bleeke.

Michele was most widely known as an elementary school teacher within the West Orange School District. She left behind a legacy — both as “Ms. Biase” and “Ms. Bleeke” — as a result of her continuing dedication to her many students. She loved her students as if they were her own children, and demonstrated an unbridled passion for her craft. Michele specialized in Music Education at Washington Elementary School for 10 years, and later taught as a classroom teacher within Mt. Pleasant Elementary, receiving a master’s degree and a Governor’s Teacher Recognition Award along the way. She additionally devoted her time as a long term substitute at Pleasantdale Elementary (now known as Kelly Elementary), and Hazel Avenue Elementary School, attended by both of her children. Michele is also remembered for her effective private piano instruction, as she taught songs on her baby grand piano to curious minds within the comfort of her cozy living room. She expanded upon her musical abilities even further within the education setting by writing and performing witty, comical, and creative musical parodies in tribute to her retiring colleagues — and they were sure to return the favor at her own retirement dinner.

Behind the scenes, Michele was a multifaceted individual. On a Thursday night you could find her boisterously cheering along with her fellow faculty bowling league buddies at Eagle Rock Lanes as she clinches another high score — but then you might find her sitting quietly in solitude on her sunlit porch, contemplatively reading a favorite fiction novel by Stephen King, Catherine Cookson, Dean Koontz, or maybe Mary Higgins Clark. If she wasn’t calmly sitting and playing soothing classical music on her baby grand, then you might find her bouncing to the beat of a bluegrass tune as she dabbled with the bass fiddle. Either way, whether it be in church, in a band, or in the car, you could always find her swaying her shoulders and singing cheerfully.

Michele was very intelligent, and carried with her an extensive vocabulary. She was an avid contender in the game of Scrabble and a whiz at Wheel of Fortune. If you were not up to the challenge of word games, however, she would be happy to take you on in a friendly hand of poker. Either way, when the fun and games ended and everyone went home, she would be known to bring closure to those summer nights on her own with a quiet game of solitaire or a crossword puzzle.

Michele was all about family — and if you were a lucky friend of hers, she welcomed you into her family with open arms. Her loyalty to her loved ones was unparalleled. She loved her son and daughter more than anything, and proudly devoted her life to them. Michele also extended her tender love to all animals of the earth, adopting cats and dogs from shelters and providing them with a beautiful life in her home, all while making sure the little birds in her backyard gardens had some seeds to pick through and some clean water to bathe in. There was always a special place in her heart for the fragile and innocent, and she cherished the little things.

As a Master of Education, Ms. Bleeke believed that the best kind of education came not from a chalkboard, but from Mother Nature. Somewhere on the final page of the closing chapter of her life, this quote would surely be found:

“Let children walk with nature. Let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life.” - John Muir

Visitation will be held on Sunday, January 6th, from 2-6 PM at the Quinn-Hopping Funeral Home — 145 E. Mt. Pleasant Avenue, Livingston, NJ 07039. Funeral service will be held on Monday, January 7th at 10:30 AM at the funeral home, with interment to follow at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in East Hanover, NJ. Memorial contributions in Michele’s name may be made to the Humane Society.

Services

  • Visitation Sunday, January 6, 2019
  • Funeral Service Monday, January 7, 2019
  • Interment Monday, January 7, 2019
REMEMBERING

Michele A. Bleeke

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Bob and Corinne Smith

January 6, 2019

Dear Jen and Christy,

Mish loved you both more than life itself. She would be - no, not would be, she is so very proud of how you have honored and celebrated her life, which burst with spirit and joy and humility and intelligence and kindness.

Mish's hugs were big enough and warm enough to embrace the world, and much of her world revolved around you.

Now she rests in pain-free peace. We love her fiercely and forever.

B&C

Michele Bleeke

January 5, 2019

Dear Jenna and Chris,

My world is smaller without your Mother in it. Best friends for 66 years, we met at Sunday School when we were six years old. We were so excited that our name, Michele,
was only spelled with one "l". Even though we weren't in the same elementary school, we
remained friends from that time throughout our lives. We shared all the major milestones of life, happy and sad. Although neither one of us had a sister, we felt like sisters.
Michele was one of the kindest, most sincere and loving people I have known. We shared a love of family, books, music and dancing. During this last year plus of Michele's confinement, we spoke daily about everything. Michele was so proud of both of you and the ways in which you supported her. She was so thankful for all the friends and family supporting her.
Jenna, as you said, your Mother is your Angel. She will watch over both of you.

Michele Pitts

Rona Mann (Lee)

January 4, 2019

To the Bleeke children:

Your mom and I went to West Orange High together and were good friends. As often happens, after graduation life took us in different directions. We "found each other" a few years ago and actually got to meet in Jersey and have dinner. From that night on, although I live in Rhode Island, we stayed in touch with birthday cards, Christmas cards, and emails. I remember Michele as a quiet, almost withdrawn young girl who was a very good student and had musical talent. I remember studying with her at the house on Riggs Place. It wasn't till I read her full obituary that I realized how many talents she had and how she had flowered. I wish we had more time and been closer...she was one of my two best friends in high school and was always real, sincere, and yet would speak her mind, which I loved. How lucky you were to share her life!

DIANA IANUZELI

January 4, 2019

Dear cousin Michele, since I heard about your passing I have been thinking about our time together when we were kids. I remember all the times our parents would get together on Riggs Place and we spent time together. Though we haven't see each other I will never forget you....may you rest in peace. Love cousin Diana

Ralph Avallone

January 3, 2019

Michelle Biase Bleeke was a major part of the success of our musical group named OZ from 1976-1989. Defined by our signature harmonies Oz performed at various clubs, weddings and corporate events. With the assistance of Michelle’s musical skills and guidance as well as her calm and gentle support, my experience was one that I will never forget. I am forever grateful to Michelle. May she rest in beautiful peace.

Ralph Avallone

Ali Fazzio

January 3, 2019

I will always remember your mom as one of the kindest people I have ever met. When I started at Mt. Pleasant, I would go and sit in the back of her classroom and just watch, completely in awe, at the way she so effortlessly blended her soul with those in her care. She told her students daily that she loved them, and offered warm, generous hugs to whomever needed one. When asked why this was such an integral part of her practice, she would smile and state that we all need to hear that, especially as we grow into the people we want to be.

The square dancing unit was a favorite for both students and staff, and I personally loved all of her holiday sweatshirts and vests that she would break out. And that amazing cheeseball she would make for all the faculty parties!!

While I am heartbroken for you and your family, I know she is at peace and with all those animals and friends she loved so fiercely. You are so like her, Jenna, and I hope the days ahead bring you comfort, peace, and many happy memories. I am so very sorry for your loss.

Paul Atsma

January 3, 2019

Bleekes--I have witnessed the love she had for you, and the love you have for each other. May that love give you strength during this sad time.

Jaime Molloy (Pitts)

January 3, 2019

Absolutely beautiful tribute to your beautiful mother. Every single memory I have of her throughout the last 40 years is of her laughing, or, at the very least, smiling. She had a wonderful sense of humor and was the sweetest soul. May she rest in pain-free eternal peace now. She will be sorely missed by so very many. Sending my deepest condolences to Jenna and Chris. xo

FROM THE FAMILY

Michele Bleeke

FROM THE FAMILY

Baby Michele