OKEMOS, Mich. - Stephanie Miheve Bria, our dear mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, passed away on April 2, 2014.
The only daughter of Joseph and Ann Miheve, she was born in a blizzard on Jan. 16, 1916, in Wakefield, and delivered by a doctor arriving in a horse-drawn buggy. During the storm, the horse ran away. But she safely arrived to become sister to six brothers, Joseph, John, Frank, Lawrence, Vincent and George. She is the last of her siblings.
Stephanie's childhood delight was Sunday Lake, especially rowing with her brothers in the boat handmade by her father, a fine wood craftsman. She did not like fishing, but relished fish fries at local supper clubs, followed by dancing. She witnessed her father build her home and her mother provide all the family food. She was a "classy gal" who wore beautiful clothes exquisitely sewn by her mother. She graduated from Wakefield High School and received an associate degree from Gogebic Junior College. She worked for the superintendent of the Wakefield school system and for the bank in Bessemer, taking the old trolley system that ran between the towns.
On Aug. 8, 1942, she married James Bria at St. Sebastian Catholic Church. On their honeymoon trip to Duluth, Minn ., their car broke down. With the War on, she had to wait three years before showing her first child off to her returning husband. Stephanie's most important work was raising her five children, but she held various positions outside the home as well, and was an active member in St. Sebastian's auxiliary organizations. She was a member of The Daughters of Isabella She was, with her husband, deeply involved in the vibrant life of Bessemer as a mining town and special friends to the Steiger family.
After the iron ore mines closed, she and Jim settled in Battle Creek, where she worked in an insurance agency and then for the federal government, where they found she could type 100 words a minute. When work took them to the Gulf coast of Mississippi, she was employed with an architect in Pascagoula. Everywhere she went she made friends, playing bridge as well as she could type. People were attracted to her tender and kind nature, not to mention her apple strudel.
In retirement, she and Jim returned to their beloved Bessemer. One of her favorite things to do was to go get the raggedy, most forlorn-looking dolls from St. Vincent de Paul thrift store. She would take them home, bathe them, style their hair and sew beautiful clothes for them. Then, she would return these renewed beauties to St. Vincent's for some little girl to have. She did win blue ribbons for her dolls at the Gogebic County Fair, having restored more than 100.
Stephanie spent her final years in the Lansing area near her children, and became known for her radiant smile, which stopped you in your tracks. She was a woman of deep faith and resilience, concerned with doing the right thing in the right proportions, passing that value on to her family, always encouraging to others, delighting in children, a woman of grace.
She joins in death her parents; her husband, James, after 55 years of marriage; her daughter, Gloria; her son, George; granddaughter, Debbie; and stepgranddaughter, Jill.
Stephanie is survived by her children, Gretchen (Richard Scala), Greg (Marilyn) and Gina (James Vescovi); grandchildren, Darryl, Darrick, Angela (Sean), Rebecca, JoAnne (Mark), Alma, Luca and Carlo; stepdaughter, Becci English; stepgranddaughter, Lori; stepson, James Bria (Marjie); stepgrandson, James (Joanne); daughter-in-law, Kristina; as well as the many dear great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews, many of whom were fed sugared oranges at her knee.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Saturday, April 12, at 11 a.m. at St. Sebastian Catholic Church in Bessemer. The Rev. Antony Lukka will be the celebrant.
Stephanie's family will receive relatives and friends from 10 a.m. until the time of Mass at the church on Saturday.
Spring burial will be in Hillcrest Cemetery, Bessemer.
The family wishes to thank those who so lovingly took care of her at the Ingham County Medical Care Facility in Okemos for seven years.
Those desiring to may make donations to the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Bessemer; the Ingham County Medical Care Foundation, 3860 Dobie Road, Okemos MI 48864; or the Hydration Foundation, hydrationfoundation.org, founded in her memory.
Range Funeral Service Inc. and the Frick-Zielinski Funeral Home of Bessemer are in charge of arrangements.