A life shared is a life lived large.
Surrounded by light and love, Marilee Kay Stevens completed her earth journey of 69 years at home in Three Rivers, California, on Tuesday, October 15, 2019, with family and friends at her side. She shared her last moments with the autumn breezes and falling leaves on the banks of her beloved Kaweah River.
In California: A Celebration of Marilee’s life will be held in Three Rivers on Saturday, November 30, 2:00 pm, at the Memorial Building.
In Wisconsin: A Celebration of Life will be held Saturday, November 16, 2019, at Peace Lutheran Church in Rosendale. Visitation is 9:00 to 11:00 am, with service at 11 am and burial to follow.
Born in Van Dyne, Wisconsin, on July 18, 1950, the second of four daughters to parents Harvey and Audrey German Wittchow, adventurous Marilee (Mel) found her roots in hard work and responsibility on the family farm in Rogersville. At age 8, Marilee suffered the tragic death of her mother. Marilee’s resilience grew, nurtured by bonds with extended family and the arrival of stepmom Virginia Curtis Wittchow and her children.
Feisty and fun-loving, Marilee found balance to life’s hardships with dance, music, and cheerleading at school, leading to her lifelong love of musicals, theater, and everything social. She adored contests, festivals, and family reunions, savoring adventures with her sisters, Joy, Peggy, and Bonnie.
Graduating from Rosendale High in 1968, Marilee headed to college with a Jolly Green Giant Scholarship, but in 1971, she answered the siren call of city life in the West, following Route 66 to California adventures. She realized a myriad of dreams during her twenty years in Southern California, years filled with boat racing, traveling, and beauty contests.
She was the Treasurer of the National Jet Boat Association for seven years while following her rising career path: accounting for Ameron Steel and Wire, then outside sales for Moore Business Forms and, eventually, Form Print. She won Miss Ameron Credit Union, Miss Southern California Federal Credit Union and was First Runner-up at the State competition, bringing her joy and class to each event.
In 1987, Marilee fell in love with Fred Stevens and became stepmom to Rick and Heather. Creating a new family filled Marilee’s heart with love. Her family rallied to help Marilee recover from a broken back sustained in a boating accident.
In 1992, Marilee and Fred moved to their place on the Kaweah River in Three Rivers. Country life drew Marilee back reluctantly, but once in the social flow, she was home.
Marilee’s resumé in retail sales expanded with the Visalia Times-Delta. She won the “Discover Visalia” sales contest and basked in her winner’s trip to Maui. Her position as Advertising Director for the Lindsay Gazette and Exeter Sun followed.
Her career path led finally to Central Valley Business Forms, satisfying both social and shopping passions. She brought innovative ad specialty items to pleased agencies and companies, injecting pizzazz to forms and printing.
A prolific storyteller and fabulous hostess, Marilee infused style into fashion and enjoyed Swedish weave, fine wine, and new friends. She loved singing “Bobby McGee” with any band and always swept the dance floor in her sweetheart’s arms for “Unchained Melody.”
Heart filled with gratitude, she considered herself the “Lucky One,” often true at card games with her soul sisters. A founding member of Girls Night Out in the early 1990s, Marilee was the primary party planner and consummate calendar keeper.
Active in the Three Rivers Woman’s Club, she will be remembered for her honesty, laughter, decadent desserts, and unique word creations. Her ability to light the room with her bright smile reflected her generous heart.
Marilee delighted in the growth, accomplishments, and fun she discovered with her six grandchildren. Her picture gallery told her story of family love.
Extending this appreciation, she volunteered with CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Tulare County, earning the nickname “CASA Lady.” For twelve years, she devoted uncounted hours outside her hectic work schedule bringing treasures, food, and comfort to foster children in distress.
Retiring from sales in 2011, Marilee joined Aging in Community-Three Rivers, a nonprofit dedicated to honoring and helping elders in Three Rivers. A faithful volunteer driver, advocate, and enthusiastic friendly visitor, she spread joy, serving on the Board of Directors for five years. The 2018 collection of elder interviews, Dynamic Lives: Oral Histories from Three Rivers, California, is dedicated to Marilee and her life of service.
Marilee was preceded in death by her parents; her stepmom; her sister, Joy Wittchow; her stepbrothers, Roger and Gordon Curtis; sister-in-law Sally Curtis; brother-in-law Cliff McCoy; and nephew, Kurt Curtis.
Marilee is survived by her husband, Fred Stevens of Three Rivers; son Rick (Lisa) Stevens; daughter Heather Anzelc; six grandchildren: Jamie (Aaron) Wright, Zachary and Riley Stevens, Nathan, Ashley, and Alicia Anzelc; sisters Peggy (John) Berenz and Bonnie (Michael) Trexell; and stepsister Joan McCoy. Her huge surviving clan in Wisconsin includes a multitude of nieces and nephews and their families, German and Wittchow cousins, and lifelong friends who gathered each time Marilee visited home in Wisconsin.
Memorial donations may be made to either Aging in Community-Three Rivers (PO Box 33, Three Rivers, CA, 93271; www.agingincommunity3r.org) or to CASA of Tulare County (www.CASATulareCo.org).