“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Luke18:16
A child with a soul of eternal innocence, Michelle Andrea Warden was joyously welcomed in heaven by Jesus, and her Mom and Dad, on April 3, 2022, after a recent diagnosis of CHF and several bouts of pneumonia, taking with her a piece of our hearts. Michelle was born on November 27, 1963 to Francis (2011) and Martha (2008) Warden and immediately taught all who interacted with her the meaning of unconditional love, resilience, and yes, even patience.
Born with Down Syndrome, Michelle began early intervention therapy as a toddler for help with mobility and speech. She was a sweet and happy child who never met a person she didn’t love, with a smile and a hug for a reward. She attended Jefferson School thru fifth grade, Ecumenical school, and later Aspiro, a day service center helping people with disabilities live their best lives, offering arts and crafts, teaching computer skills, and paying employment opportunities. Michelle attended Aspiro for over 35 years doing many different jobs… counting and packing items, tying macramé hammocks, folding and price tagging t-shirts. She would sometimes do volunteer jobs at Paul’s Pantry such as transferring eggs from large crates to smaller cartons, and when asked… “No, I didn’t break any.” She was always so proud of her paychecks, saving for her dream vacation, a Disney Cruise.
She enjoyed latch hooking and gave many finished projects away as gifts. She enjoyed spending time with niece Amy, taking her to movies, out to eat and shooting pool. Michelle was a pretty decent pool player. Michelle loved music and dancing, and was often seen with her headphones on, moving to the music, talking to and laughing with her “secret friend.” Niece Tarra took her karaoke singing a few times, usually belting out her favorite song, Dancing Queen. She sung this song at many family weddings, having no fear getting up in front of a crowd. She also liked old TV shows like ‘Chips’, ‘Hart to Hart’, and ‘Falcon Crest’, not for the stories but for the handsome stars, Eric Estrada, Robert Wagner, Lorenzo Lamas and David Selby. Often if you were out with her somewhere, she would ‘HubaHuba’ if a handsome guy walked by.
Michelle had quite a few exciting adventures. While living with her Mom and Dad, they seldom went anywhere without taking her along, visiting friends, her brothers and sisters, and other relatives. When she was 25, they drove to visit Liz in South Carolina, then down to Florida to Disney World, then travelling to Mississippi for the wedding of Mary and Ron. Years later, she also travelled to California with her sister Rose and niece Tarra to go to Disney Land. While there, Tarra arranged a meeting at a restaurant with Eric Estrada, who was Michelle’s #1 heart throb from watching ‘Chips.’ He drove up in his hot car, talked with her and gave her a kiss. This was a most memorable day for her.
She would usually spend a few weeks each year with Marge and Jim, making homemade pasta, having great meals and seeing shows. They taught her the importance of fine ‘wine’ tasting. She would take her wine glass, swirl and sniff, then taste and exclaim “Fabulous.” She loved visiting cemeteries… not plain ordinary ones, but the ones with the huge monuments to both people and animals. She also loved to go to car shows and riding in Jim’s restored Thunderbird. Liz and Norm with Michelle visited Mary in Ohio a couple times a year, enjoying new restaurants and parks, exploring the Amish countryside and interesting shops. While spending time with Rose and Joe up north, Joe taught her to fish, which she loved to do. Aspiro occasionally had fishing outings, and she was always eager to go.
Michelle lived the first 48 years of her life with her Mom and Dad. After their passing, her sister Liz became her guardian and caregiver, and along with Liz’s husband Norm, gave her a wonderful, loving and comfortable home. We extend our appreciation to Liz and Norm and ask God’s blessings on them for their years of care giving, especially thru these last couple years dealing with Covid restrictions and Michelle’s failing health.
Michelle is survived by and will be greatly missed by her brothers and sisters: Mary Kelley, Jeromesville, OH; Joe and Peggy Warden, Suamico; Anne Rich, Neenah; Liz and Norm Pagel, Suamico; Marge and Jim Massarello, Oak Park, IL; sister-in-law Pam (Paul) Mattick, Green Bay; Rose Smits, Green Bay; Jim and Kristy Warden, Greenleaf, and Pete and Jan Warden, Green Bay, and oodles of nieces and nephews and great nieces and nephews. Also Andrea Pociask, her long time respite caregiver, who took Michelle out on many enjoyable outings.
In addition to her parents, Michelle was preceded in death by a brother, John; sisters-in-laws Karen Warden and Joan Warden; brothers-in-law Ron Kelley and Joe Smits; plus BFF and many time prom date, Joey Pivonka.
Visitation will be held from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday at Proko-Wall Funeral Home, 1630 E. Mason St. A parish wake service will be held at 7:00 p.m. Tuesday at the funeral home. Visitation will continue from 10:00 to 10:50 a.m. Wednesday at St. Mary of the Angels Catholic Church, 650 S. Irwin. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 11:00 a.m. Wednesday at the church with Fr. Finian Zaucha OFM officiating. Entombment will be in Allouez Chapel Mausoleum. To send online condolences visit www.prokowall.com. A memorial fund will be established in Michelle’s name, going to Aspiro and St. Mary’s Education Endowment Fund.