Alease Mitchem, 79 of South Bend, IN, passed away on Sunday, December 8, 2013 at Kindred Hospital in Mishawaka, IN. Alease was born March 24, 1934 to Henry and Rebecca Murphy in Union City, TN. Her family moved to South Bend, where she grew up in “the country” on Fillmore and Gale Rd.
The Murphy union produced many siblings: Ann Laura Sims, Sarah Wills, Inez Dickey, Allene McGhee, Cora Edwards, William “Booster” Murphy, Henry Murphy, Tommie Ashford, Lowell Mason Murphy and Rebecca Miller (Bob) of Compton, CA. All except Rebecca Miller proceeded Alease in death.
Alease attended Washington High School where she graduated in 1952. There she met her high school sweetheart and husband of 60 years, Spandward Mitchem. They married, September 19, 1953 in South Bend, IN. Their marriage produced four offspring, Rick “Juice” Mitchem (Kathy) of Round Lake Beach, IL, Ron “Big Pretty” Mitchem of Buffalo Grove, IL, Judy “Ms. Judy” (Freddie) Owens of South Bend, IN and Lynn “The Detective” Mitchem of Buffalo Grove, IL.
Subsequently, Alease had seven grandkids: Linnea (Vince) Vance, Alisa Owens, Rebecca Owens, Ronald G. Mitchem, Shelly (Marcus) Smith, Hannah Mitchem, Denzel Mitchem; and one great-granddaughter, Dakota “The Future” Owens.
Alease worked a wide variety of jobs including factory work at Excel in Elkhart IN. She also worked at One-Hour Modernizer in South Bend and Crystal Cleaners in Mishawaka.
Alease was also employed at Riley High School as a para and decided at age 38, to pursue higher education. She both worked and attended school full time, graduating six years later, with a Masters of Education from Indiana University of South Bend. Subsequently she was an elementary teacher for 20 years in the South Bend Community School Corporation where she retired in 1997.
After she retired, she reached for the sky again, and started a business. LAS Daycare which is still thriving, 15 years later with two locations. Hundreds of kids were serviced at her daycare.
During the marriage, Alease and Span moved into Chalfant Heights, the first African American Sub Division in South Bend. At a time where blacks didn’t live east of Twyckenham, she was instrumental in integrating McKinley School due to severe overcrowding at Perley School. Her efforts along with others, opened up new doors for many, and paved the way for improved racial relations.
Alease was a “young” senior citizen, who had a variety of interests. She loved wine and was known to have an affinity for Petron. She traveled throughout the United States and was a fixture at both the Circle City Classic and Black Expo in Indianapolis. She attended the Kentucky Derby, and traveled extensively to her son’s football and basketball games at Butler, Michigan State and the University of Illinois. She went on cruises, and many Las Vegas excursions.
She attended concerts of different genres from Eddie Murphy, to James Brown, Stevie Wonder and Maze. Her all-time favorite was Luther Vandross. However, she was down with Snoop Dogg, Bobby Blue Bland, Aretha Franklin and Al Green. There wasn’t a gospel song that she couldn’t sing along with. She was teased about her lack of rhythm and poor singing voice, but she would just laugh and dance and sing anyway.
Basketball was her game, the Lakers were her team, and Shaq and Kobe were her guys. She called Kobe, “Choir Boy”, and stayed up to watch the Lakers whenever they were on. It was not unusual for her and Span to watch all three NBA triple header games.
Alease loved to play cards and excelled at Poker, Bid Whist and Bridge. It was not unusual for her and Span to play cards well into the night. Alease was an avid bowler and expert fisherman. The Mitchems went on Walleye fishing trips in Ohio and Minnesota, and loved Crappie fishing in Florida. However, she was at her best, Bluegill fishing at her lake cottage in Sturgis, MI where many a day she out-fished everyone. The fish fry’s that she orchestrated are legendary, and she is still and forever will be the standard for Hot Rolls, and Fried Chicken.
It goes without saying that the basis for her success was her love of God. Alease was a member of Layman Chapel Church in South Bend, IN and helped raise thousands of dollars in her various Church fund raising efforts whether it be selling Cashews, Fruit or Dinners. She served on a variety of committees within the church.
Alease believed in the saying, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’, and was at the forefront of helping relatives and neighborhood kids. She opened up her home to many relatives and young couples who were in need. Neighborhood kids often used her as a sounding board and refuge when they were having issues at their own homes.
One can see that if she was doing good work for the church and friends, it goes without saying that family was important. Her dedication to her immediate family was remarkable. Life challenges through sickness, financial loss, marital strife was met head on and the wisdom that was given was both right on and much appreciated.
Alease was a role model to many as she cared for both ailing parents, and several siblings as their health deteriorated.
Her husband, Span, suffered a massive stroke, which represented her biggest challenge. Alease kept a bedside vigil next to her husband for over a year as he recovered. She showed unparalleled loyalty and love while sleeping on cots, chairs, couches and sometimes not at all. Love was her best virtue. Alease was a remarkable, wife, mother, aunt, sister and friend. God rest her wonderful soul.
If you want to honor Alease’s memory, hug somebody; love somebody; help somebody; contact a relative; show interest in a wayward kid; spend time with family and friends. That was and always will be her legacy, human interaction.
Visitation will take place from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Friday, December 13, 2013 in Clark-O’Neal Funeral Home, 2702 Lincoln Way West, South Bend. Funeral services will be held at 12:00 Noon on Saturday, December 14, 2013 in Layman Chapel CME Church, 303 S. Kenmore Street, South Bend. Friends may call one hour prior to funeral service. Burial will follow in Highland Cemetery.