Hundreds gather to remember longtime West Bend kindergarten teacher

THIENSVILLE (CBS 58) -- Hundreds of people gathered Sunday to remember a longtime West Bend kindergarten teacher who passed away earlier this month. 

Jodi Kleibel was a teacher at McLane Elementary for 29 years. 

"Jodi Kleibel was dedicated, caring, loving, giving, never-give-up attitude, give of one self to whoever is in need and that is from children to adults to community members, fellow teachers in other buildings, that’s who Jodi was," said Andy Kasik, Principal at McLane Elementary. 

It was on the first day of school last year when Kleibel received a call from her doctor. 

"She found out that she this cancer pre-leukemia and had a bone marrow transplant in January," said her younger sister Jamee LeMonds, "Unfortunately, it wasn’t successful."

During her fight she had help from those whose lives she impacted, including a former student who helped create Kleibel's Krew, a fundraising and support effort for Kleibel. 

"I couldn’t change the situation that she had cancer, but I just wanted to make the best of it and remind her we’re all out here supporting her," said that former student Lexi Fiorentino, "To see someone wearing the shirt or bracelet just kind of encouraged that support and reminded her on the harder days, too."

Kleibel's 11-year-old niece also started a fundraiser. So far, she says she's raised nearly $17,000 for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society. 

"I wanted her to feel happy, I wanted her to have no more pain, but maybe now she has no more pain since she’s up there, in heaven," said Piper LeMonds. 

Kleibel told family members she didn't want a funeral, but a Celebration of Life. In lieu of flowers, she hoped people would donate backpacks and school supplies to be donated to kids in need. Family members say there were about 800 backpacks donated at her Celebration of Life. 

"It’s amazing, like over-the-top, it’s incredible, overwhelming, but it's fantastic," said Jamee LeMonds. 

Her family has also started a foundation in her honor named after Kleibel's motto: Be Kind: It's That Simple. 

"She just was always caring about everyone else and it’s something we will hopefully remember and learn from," said LeMonds. 

If you'd like to donate a backpack email [email protected]

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