THIENSVILLE -- A longtime West Bend teacher died after a battle with leukemia, but in her death, she's continued to change lives and promote a solid education.
There was a celebration of life event honoring Jodi Kleibel at The Watermark at Shully's on Green Bay Road near Elm Street in Thiensville Sunday, Sept. 15. Hundreds came out to say goodbye, and also, to help keep Kleibel's legacy alive.
For nearly three decades, Kleibel was a force in her kindergarten classroom.
"She loved her job," said Lexi Fiorentino, former student. "You could see it every single day."
Kleibel taught hundreds at West Bend's McLane Elementary School how to read, write, and give.
"If some child needed something, she found it," said Jill Hart, Kleibel's sister. "If they didn't have the funding for a field trip, she made it work."
Her generous life came to an end in early September after a brave battle against leukemia.
"She was definitely the glue that held us together," said Hart.
Hart and Jamee LeMonds, also Kleibel's sister, joined other family members, friends, and Kleibel's former students -- celebrating her life in a special way.
"It's a little bit non-traditional celebration of life," said LeMonds. "This is truly everything that she wanted."
In lieu of flowers, mourners donated backpacks filled with school supplies.
"I told everyone at school, and they all donated, and I feel so thankful for them," said Piper LeMonds, Kleibel's niece. "Mine are all under these backpacks. They all got stuck underneath there."
More than 800 backpacks were collected by her family -- filled with books, calculators, gift cards, and more.
"We're going to give them to all needy schools throughout the Milwaukee area," said Jamee LeMonds.
It was one of Kleibel's final wishes -- another of her lessons that will live on.
"I think what we need to share the motto of, 'Be kind,'" said Jamee LeMonds. "It's that simple. It really is that simple."
The family said they planned to collect backpacks in Kleibel's honor each year, and they also set up a scholarship for students at the elementary school she taught at in West Bend.