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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Michele Mae

Michele Mae Stoughton Strealy
MICHELE MAE STOUGHTON STREALY passed away April 2, 2009, at M.D. Anderson Hospital, Houston, Texas. She was born June 26, 1959, in Paw Paw, Michigan, to Dale and Lucille Stoughton. Michele married James Strealy, in Houston, on December 19, 1987. They are the parents of Cameron, a junior at Memorial High School, and Alison, a seventh grader at Spring Branch Middle School. Michele graduated from Spencer High School, Spencer, Iowa, in 1977, and the University of North Texas with a Bachelor of Arts, and a Masters of Education. She was Day School Supervisor, at Avondale House, in Houston, beginning her career there in 1984, until her recent retirement. She was a dedicated soccer mom and had coached youth soccer. A memorial service will be held Sunday, April 5, 2009, at 6 p.m., at Central Presbyterian Church, 3733 Richmond Avenue, Houston, Texas 77046. Survivors include her husband, James (Jim) Strealy, son Cameron Strealy, and daughter Alison Strealy, father Dale Stoughton, of Brenham, Texas, sister Sherry Reed, of Corpus Christi, and brother Steve Stoughton, of Baltimore, Maryland, as well as a large extended family and many friends. She was preceded in death by her mother, Lucille Stoughton. Memorials may be made to Avondale House, 3737 O'Meara Dr, Houston, TX 77025.

Avondale House Remembers Michele

This note was sent to Michele's co-workers and friends at Avondale House by Barbara.

Michele was our valued colleague and dear friend. For thirteen years, she battled cancer, with the support of her loving family and friends and through her own personal fortitude and determination. Through it all, Michele maintained her classic sense of humor and amazing intellect.

We were all blessed to have Michele in our lives. She was passionate about autism, about Avondale House, and about improving the lives of children with autism and their families. She made a difference in countless lives. Yet, she considered herself so fortunate to have been able to do the work that she loved for her entire career.

As passionate as she was about making a difference in the lives of children with autism, she was even more dedicated and committed to her family. Pictures of Cameron and Alison adorned her desk and her pride in them was evident. I know that we will all keep Jim, Cameron, and Alison, Michele’s father Dale , her brother Steve and sister, Sherry, and their families and Michele’s many friends in our thoughts and prayers.

As we all grieve the loss of this wonderful friend, co-worker, and professional, I hope that we can also celebrate Michele’s life and what she meant to each of us. She will be missed in so many ways and for so many reasons, but her spirit and the gifts she gave to those whose lives she touch, will remain.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Sharon Remembers Michele

Michele Mae Stoughton Strealy April 5, 2009

I felt like I had won the lottery when Jim agreed to allow me the privilege of talking to you today about Michele. And you cant imagine what a privilege it is, and what being a part of her life has been. I am Sharon Strealy Krueger, and Michele is my precious sister-in-law, a sister-in-law who set the bar for in-laws higher than could have ever been imagined. We would like to thank each of you here today, for
the comfort your presence gives, as well as for every prayer and act of kindness that has been given for Michele over the years, and especially in the last few months and days.

Michele was born into a loving, nurturing, caring family, to Dale and Lucy Stoughton, in Paw Paw, Michigan, and grew up bookended by big sister, Sheri, and little brother, Steve. They eventually migrated to Texas, thank goodness, by way of Iowa, where Michele completed high school. She was known as the child who somehow was followed home by stray cats, and the occasional dog. Dale was pretty sure she somehow coaxed the cats into following her home.

She picked blueberries with her grandmother in Michigan, in the summer, and looked forward to picking corn in Iowa, and made lifelong friends along the way. In high school, she usually worked summers at the Dairy Queen. Just before school would start in the fall, she always knew she would get the talk with her father. Dale would sit her down, and ask how the job had gone at Dairy Queen, and Michele would complain about the hard work and how tough it had been.

He would then always make his point that, without a good education,
the Dairy Queen would be what she would always have to look forward to. That point was obviously well taken. After earning a Masters degree at North Texas, in 1984, she began a career at Avondale House, begun here in space at this church site where we are today, the only adult job she had, and to which she was devoted.

In the fall of 1986, my brother, Jim, began dating a young woman named Michele Stoughton, in Houston. They had been introduced by their mutual friend, and Michele's college roommate, Jeri. Jim has 3 older sisters, and at the time, we all had families and young children, and we were concerned that Jim would not find the one.
That Thanksgiving, he brought Michele with him, to my house in Arlington. His sisters immediately knew she was the one for us anyway. We were overjoyed when
they became engaged, and, in December, of 1987, were married. The Stoughton and Strealy families, and many friends (many that are here today, I am sure) gathered at the River Oaks Garden Club Forum, just a few blocks away, to celebrate a new family.

It was a warm December day, but, being Houston, it rained, but the beautiful tall, historic windows of the Forum glistened at sunset. Michele was a radiant
bride, glowing with a halo of garland around her head. Its no coincidence that we frequently call her Saint Michele, and have for more than 20 years.

At the time, our parents were gone, and we didn't schedule many holidays together, with lots of young children, and busy jobs. Michele became the family
glue. Soon afterwards we began a long tradition of going to Wimberly together in the summer, and Salado at Christmas. The longest-standing tradition we have, and for which we are known for our Olympic-like skills, is that the women go shopping.

Over the years, during our shopping escapades, mostly at the outlet malls in San Marcos, we started out shopping for pretty lingerie, then next came
maternity clothes, followed by major trips to the Carter's store for baby clothes, later the Disney Store, followed by Limited Too, then Gap, and on and on. You could track the ages of our children by what shopping bags we brought home.

Jim and Michele were blessed with two wonderful children, Cameron and Ali. As I said before, Michele set the bar very high, and she was living proof that a woman could successfully have a rewarding career balanced with a loving and caring and busy family.

Michele loved being at Avondale House, and sometimes you could barely distinguish where Avondale stopped and family began. Both were her very being, and she loved each student at Avondale as though they were her very own. Just a few days ago
she was in anguish because one of her former, graduated students was missing from a group home, and she feared that he would not be recognized as having special needs, before something sad happened to him.

He had not been in her school for about 10 years, and her heart was still heavy for him. She felt that strongly about every single student that came her way, and loved them all unconditionally, from the day they came to her as a very young child, and long after they graduated from Avondale, and left for what she always hoped was a bright future.

Michele revered her staff, and the special work they accomplished at Avondale. She considered everyone there to be a dear friend, and had a special
friendship with multitudes of parents over the years. When she was at home, her heart was with Avondale, and when she was at school, her heart was with her family.

After Michele's grim diagnosis more than 10 years ago, she began the fight of her life. Not once have I ever heard her complain about the suffering she endured, or any treatment she took. She good naturedly lost her hair at least a half-dozen times over the years. She never knew what texture or color it would come back in, and teased Jim that she was beginning to prefer the lack of maintenance that
bald required.

Not only did she not complain, or feel sorry for herself, but her stories about her trips to MD Anderson were about those she came across that she was heartbroken for, such as a child with cancer, and never about herself. Having cancer was an inconvenience to her, and she suffered terribly, but she lived her life at full-throttle in the meantime.

Michele, Jim, Cameron and Ali lived in Spring Branch all these years, and lived in a real neighborhood and I mean real, in that all the neighbors know and care about one another, look after whatever needs to be done for each other. We are incredibly grateful for that neighborhood for supplying a support system that allowed Michele to endure endless treatments but not be worried about whether the kids would get to soccer practice, or school, or if the trash would get to the curb.

Michele somehow continued to participate in Cameron's and Ali's activities, in whatever way she could, up until a few days ago. She was so thrilled that she could see Cameron play soccer, on a cold, rainy March night, and that the field had a spot that she could watch from the car.

She was teaching Ali to needlepoint, something that Michele had always loved to do, and something that helped relieve some of the waiting room time at MD Anderson. Her father was usually there at her side, each treasuring every minute together.

The Strealys regularly went on a Spring Break cruise with their neighbors and friends, and they loved sitting on a warm, sandy beach just being together, wherever the ship would land. They explored every square inch of their beautiful property, near Wimberly, over and over again, where her ashes will be scattered.

Jim said that the one thing that Michele insisted they do after they would pack for a trip, of all things, just before they would leave the house, she insisted they not leave until they made up their bed.

Michele's life was made up of so much more than being a devoted wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend and employee.

She left a measurable, real legacy here on this temporary stop on Earth, although her
life was far too brief. She felt called into special education, and that calling was so easy and natural for her. She felt as blessed in her work, as those touched by her work felt blessed by her.

Her legacy includes a long marriage, in a time when marriages are considered temporary. Michele was loyal, to all who crossed her path. She was forthright, and we always knew where we stood with Michele. She was brilliant. She timed her medications in the last few months so she could stay awake during what she
called "the brain hour" back-to-back Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy.

Whenever we played board games at our family get-togethers, we would fight over whose team Michele would be on. You had to be prepared to lose if Michele was not on your team.

Michele was always up to playing with the kids or adults. She did swear off floating down the Guadalupe when Cameron was little, after getting dumped out of her tube a little more harshly than she wanted.

She endured games of 42, but she was always up to our shopping trips. And she could be counted on to bring the best food and snacks. We quit giving out commendations for family meal presentation, when Michele showed up with a majestic carved
watermelon basket, complete with a handle. We couldn't compete.

And Michele was a loving, patient, and nurturing mother. Last summer, Ali, with a question wise beyond her young years, asked my grown daughter, Amy, if she would teach her how to be a mother when she grew up. My daughter assured her
that that would not be necessary, as Ali had already been taught everything she would ever need to know to by an expert, by her own mother.

Amy couldn't travel here today, following some surgery a few days ago, but she and Michele have always been very close, long before they each became mothers of 13 years old daughters that are inseparable cousins, although living miles apart.

In Amy's words, she adds that, "Michele has been in my life since I was a teenager so she has taught me so much about being a wonderful teacher, mom, friend
and a very patient wife. Every important moment in my adult life, Michele has been there for me, like I know she has for many people. She always has the perfect words to say. I don't know how our family will go on playing games without her witty comebacks--we would all agree she was the smartest person in our family. I am so blessed to have the memories I have-mostly she has left the most wonderful gift
to me and all of us--Cameron and Ali. They are amazing and wonderful and I'll always get to see Michele in them. I couldn't love them more if they were my own."

Just a week ago, the Strealys were hopeful. Michele had just begun a new treatment, having spent a long Friday at MD Anderson. There were still other options after that. For whatever reason, it was not to be.

She slipped into the arms of the angels, with Jim, Ali and Cameron holding her hand. She was no longer suffering, and was surrounded by those who loved her. Jim told me earlier that day, that he had gone home the night before, to get a little sleep, and take a shower and change clothes, after spending some long days and nights by Michele's side.

Early that morning he was on his way back to the hospital, not knowing that it would be his last day with Michele.

Michele, you are going to have a very difficult time believing this but before Jim left the house, on Thursday morning, for some reason, believe it or
not, before your final trip together here on earth, he made up the bed before he left the house.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

People Who Signed Michele's Guest Book

Our Hearts,Our Thoughts and Our Prayers goes out to everyone of you during this very difficult time. We were so sorry to hear of Michele's (Shelly) passing. God bless all of you. Love, Your extended family from Michigan.
Michele was a wonderful companion on the sidelines of the soccer field, we will miss her smiling face & cheerful personality.Our love and thoughts are with you at this time.

My prayers are with you and your family. Just know that Michele is in the arms of God and her beloved angel will be with you always. May peace be upon you.
I met Michelle through my association with an Avondale student. She was so open and friendly and she always made time to speak with me whenever I visited the school. Her love for her students was so apparent and her knowledge and caring attitude definitely impacted many families. May God bless her family and may they know that others are thinking of them.
To All the Family and Friends of Michele,
My heart goes out to you. So sorry for your loss.
I knew Michele as an acquaintance for years, but got to know her better when my daughter, Gracie, was placed on the same soccer team as Alison. Sitting on the sidelines next to Michele was a treat; she was a straight shooter with a low-key, dry wit, and what I really liked was that she was a mom that knew the game,often as well or better than many of the refs, and she always knew exactly when it was time to tell Jim to be quiet!! :-) I'll miss that.
We send our love and pray for God's peace for all of you.
Michele was a wonderful and giving woman who will be greatly missed. I am so sorry for you loss. If you need anything, please let me know.

Michele was absolutely passionate about watching her two precious kids play soccer and I have been so blessed to be her friend and fellow Albion soccer mom. My daughter counts as one of her closest friends and our hearts ache for her loss. We send our love and prayers.. May His light shine upon you, Michele.

Michele helped make my transition into a new area of education easier and shared her knowledge with me. We worked together for many years and I learned a great deal from her dedication and support. It was a privilege to know her.
Michele has always been one of my role models. I met her when I was just a teen and my family enrolled my sister in Avondale House. I had the opportunity to volunteer with the school for many years while I was in high school. Michele always inspired me and definitely played a large role in guiding me towards my career path as a special education teacher and a behavior specialist. I feel honored to have known her and have learned so much from her. Michele was an amazing woman and will be deeply missed.
Twenty-five years ago we were searching for help for our autistic daughter and we met a wonderful young woman named Michele who was such a wonderful guide, teacher and supporter of our family's journey. She and our daughter shared the same name but was called "Brown" as there could only be one Michele according to our daughter. Our sincere condolences. Please know that Michele has touched so many lives and will always been in our hearts and memories.
A truly wonderful woman, Michele will continue to remain in my memory as a convivial and gratifying individual. Paragonless as a mother, loving wife, and pronounced friend, her memory is with us.