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Kindergarten teacher remembered as 'glorious human being'

Published: Friday, July 11, 2014 11:42 a.m. CDT
Michele Turrise, a kindergarten teacher at Field Elementary School in Elmhurst, is pictured with her husband Richard Turrise. Michele died unexpectedly July 2 at 36.

ELMHURST – Although Elmhurst wasn't her home, Michele Turrise and her seemingly endless energy will be remembered by many District 205 students, staff and parents.

The Field School kindergarten teacher died unexpectedly at 36 on July 2.

Her aunt, Judy Bredemann, who used to be a librarian at Conrad Fischer Elementary School described Turrise as a "glorious human being."

Turrise, a lifelong Chicago resident, first started working at District 205 as a reading recovery teacher at Lincoln Elementary school.

Bredemann remembers being surprised when she found out Turrise got her first job in District 205 because she didn't know her niece had even applied.

"She wanted to get that job on her own," recalled Mary Ann Kalis, who was Lincoln's principal at the time and hired Turrise.

Turrise seemed to carry that same drive for accomplishment throughout her life. The volleyball lover played on her school teams from grade school through college. In addition to her teaching degree, she held two master's degrees and specialized in reading.

"She worked very hard to instill a love of reading in all the kids," said Marcy Grochowski, an educational assistant in Turrise's kindergarten room this year at Field School.

Bredemann said she enjoyed discovering personality traits she shared with Turrise when she started working in Elmhurst.

"They have a lot of energy," Kalis, who is now secretary of the District 205 Foundation, said of Turrise and her aunt.

Barbara Cortez, Turrise's fellow kindergarten teacher at Field, said she'll remember Turrise flying in every morning with her bouncy curls, full of her signature energy and eager for the day ahead.

Turrise, who was known for her sense of humor and laughter, led her students in funny songs and dances, said Cortez. Kalis said Turrise was like a magnet for children; she was always drawing them in, and they were always excited to be in her classroom.

Many of her District 205 co-workers recall her passion for teaching and her willingness to always go out of her way to lend a hand or do a favor.

Still, Turrise's first priority was always her family.

"Michele's life was her children," Bredemann said.

Turrise is survived by her husband, Richard Turrise Jr., who is a Chicago police officer, and her two children, Jenna, 2, and Nicolas, 5.

Bredemann said Michele especially loved taking trips with her family to Disney World.

Many of those she worked with in Elmhurst said they will miss her high-energy approach to work and life along with her sincerity and big heart.

Kalis said of all Michele offered her students, parents and co-workers at District 205, she'll remember one expression most.

"I'm going to just remember Michele's smile. ... She was always happy to see you," Kalis said.

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Know more

A trust fund is being established for Turrise's children. Information on how to contribute will be posted on a Facebook page titled, In Memory of Michele Kolb-Turrise, once the trust is established.

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