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Memories of a Dear Friend

Remembrances and tributes shared this week after the death of Barbara Bush reminded me of the inspiration, support and blessings that I have received on my own life journey. Reflecting on those who have made a difference in my life, I give thanks for my dear friend, Adell M. Kleinecke.

The Legacy of Adell Kleinecke

Adell was born in Cleveland on April 12, 1912, and actively pursued a vibrant journey on this earth for an amazing 102 years. She was a dynamic woman who taught me the importance of growing in faith, supportive relationships and always looking for opportunities to make a difference.

Adell and I met in 1994. Adell was a member of the healthcare committee for First United Church of Christ in Lakewood and interviewed me for a newly created parish nurse position at the church. She was a retired teacher and the proud former director of the Lakewood High School girl’s physical education department. At 82, Adell was actively engaged as a member of the congregational leadership team. Adell also was a founding member and later a volunteer at the former Lakewood Christian Service Center, now called Lakewood Community Services Inc.

Defying Stereotypes

Adell never married. As an independent woman, she defied the stereotype of an “aging spinster” who might be “set in her ways.” Adell was a forceful, dynamic leader when successfully executing a plan. An avid lifelong learner, Adell frequently bought her favorite books to share with others. She was passionate about strengthening the church and appreciated great conversation with friends. Adell easily shared her opinions and had a strong commitment to positive change.

Adell demonstrated the importance of friendships and appreciated her supportive group of teacher friends. They enjoyed great parties and traveled together to Hawaii, Europe and Asia. They especially enjoyed restaurants, community activities and season tickets for the Broadway series at Playhouse Square.

When the church (built in 1929) needed major repairs, the congregation began to discern a faithful path into the future. Adell actively participated in the “Dream Team,” seeking ways to continue to be God’s realm on earth. When the church membership voted in 2006 to leave their beloved building and reunite with a former church start, Adell, the church matriarch, led the charge. The congregation voted to invest the proceeds from the sale of the First Church building to further Christian education, mission and ministry in support of their new church family, Church of the Redeemer UCC in Westlake, as well as in the wider community and around the world.

Aging Opportunities and Challenges

Throughout her life, Adell was energized by new ideas and actively supported those seeking personal hopes and dreams. Two of Adell’s former students who were in their late 60s attended Adell’s 100th birthday open house to offer their gratitude for Adell’s inspiration and support. Thanks in part to Adell’s caring nature, these students pursued their dreams of a college education and careers after high school graduation.

As Adell aged, she faced her own challenges. Her greatest struggle was profound hearing loss. It was unresolved by an array of expensive hearing aids. Sadly, it limited her great joy and ability to participate in group relationships and discussion with others. Telephone conversations became a mechanism to remain in touch with church members and friends. They also lifted her spirits and allowed her to maintain relationships and stay connected with the world outside her apartment.

A Legacy Continues

Adell appreciated visits as she became increasingly frail and later rarely left her home. Adell’s willingness to generously offer gratitude for her life blessings, amazing career, friendships and church support increased with her advancing years. Her faith in God’s grace became more deeply rooted within every aspect of her life. She remained actively engaged and continued to read books and magazines — especially Christian Century until her death.

Adell’s independent, faith-filled nature facilitated her decision to remain at home with hospice services, profusely thanking everyone for their presence and support until her last breath. At 102, she quietly left this earth, entered the divine realm and gathered with those whom she had loved and lost.

I offer my deep thanks and tremendous gratitude for Adell’s friendship, her caring presence and her unlimited support. She demonstrated to everyone she loved a faithful willingness to charge through life with a spirit of youthful adventure in anticipation of bold new opportunities.

About Rev. Catherine Lawrence

Rev. Cathy is a registered nurse and an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. She is a lifelong learner who loves to read and enjoys nature. She is the mother of two adult children and has one beloved grandchild.

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