Althea R. Kwiek|
Althea Rose Kwiek (nee Benbenek), born February 20, 1943, in Chicago, Illinois, died early Sunday morning, June 8, in Salinas, California, where she spent the last year of her life, after living the prior 50 in Cicero, IL.
She died mindfully, following a valiant, Zen-like standoff with maladies she acknowledged were likely related to a decades-long addiction to tobacco.
She was preceded in death by her grandson and frequent companion, Alex Kwiek-Rysavy and is survived by her three children, Julia Kwiek (Don Morschauser) of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, Peter Kwiek (Robin Cohen) of Salinas, California, Karan Owens (Michael Owens) of Newalla, Oklahoma, and her three siblings, Leon (Donna) Benbenek, Michele (Robert) Kalaveras, and Hilary (Basia) Benbenek.
Althea was a straight-shooting skeptic with an incisive wit and stunning, plainspoken wisdom. She was a bundle of richly clashing contradictions: A gregarious and passion-filled agoraphobic; a pop-culture aficionada who was scathingly critical of capitalism; an avid reader of the high-brow Nation as well as the low-brow National Enquirer.
A turning point in her life came in her mid-forties, when, with inspiring determination, she overcame phobias that had kept her in poverty wage employment for many years and fulfilled a lifelong dream, obtaining her GED, entering college and becoming a nurse. She spent the rest of her working life as an RN working in skilled nursing facilities.
Embracing an ascetic outlook, Althea faced hardship and adversity with an uncanny serenity. For many years of her adult life, she exuded extraordinary poise and contentment living in harsh conditions while in virtually constant physical pain.
While her passion for justice sometimes caused her to rush to judgment, she always thought about things a long time and was not afraid to change her mind - and admit she'd changed her mind. Although stoic in matters of personal pain and want, she could be intensely sentimental for kittens and puppies, plane crash victims and the rest of the world.
Allergic to excessive manners and pretentious platitudes, Althea defied categorization and taught us that the most important thing to be is-yourself. Her very unconventional legacy lives on in the charm, wit, and eccentricities of her 3 non-conformist children. She will be profoundly missed.
Private Family services will be held.
Funeral arrangements by Struve and Laporte Funeral Home. For more information and to share a memory visit www.struveandlaporte.com
Published in Suburban Life Publications on June 25, 2014