Mary Ellen (Breitzke) Riehl was born on March 19, 1952, and after many years filled with adventure, love, and wonder, her time here on Earth came to an end on December 12, 2021. Mary grew up in Madison and eventually migrated to the Fox Valley area.
The greatest of Mary’s adventures began when she met Gene Riehl. Together, Mary and Gene raised two daughters, Kelly and Kari. Among Mary’s greatest sources of pride was watching her daughters grow into strong, independent, successful women. While Gene remained Mary’s North Star, her daughters were without question the lights of her life. That is, until she became a grandma. Mary’s heart expanded again and again as she welcomed each of her grandchildren into her life: Grayson, Leighton, Morgan, Xenik, Xadik, and Xella. And because family, for Mary, was defined by love, she considered it a blessing and a joy to shower Kari’s stepchildren with her care and generous spirit as well: Mikayla, Anova and Zorah.
Mary loved to be on the go, and as long as she was able, she made it a point to be present in her children and grandchildren’s lives. Whether it was a dance competition, a band concert, or a birthday party, Mary was always there, cheering, encouraging, and celebrating the gift she was constantly in awe of: the beautiful and vibrant family she created. Mary and Gene enjoyed an annual trip to Clearwater, Florida, for years and when the hustle and bustle of life would allow, they both especially enjoyed being there with their family.
Although Mary did not consider herself a religious person, she was deeply spiritual and felt that her time, talents, and assets were meant to be given generously to others. She was a humble servant, and volunteered dutifully, and quietly, over the years at many charities and non-profits. The mission to live with a servant’s heart was passed on to her daughters, and through them, to her grandchildren. And it is in this way that although Mary’s physical presence will be deeply missed by those who loved her, she is also very present in the legacy she left behind and the countless ways she left a lasting impact on her beloved community. Mary’s fighting spirit will be felt for many years to come.
Mary is now a guardian angel to her husband, Gene, her daughters, Kelly (Tim) Kelly and Kari (Kou Xiong) Riehl, her grandchildren, Grayson, Leighton, and Morgan Kelly, and Mikayla Santoski-Xiong, Anova, Zorah, Xenik, Xadik and Xella Xiong, as well as her three sisters, Connie, Gail, and Joanie.
Mary will be reuniting with her father, Melvin Breitzke, her mother, Elvira (Taylor) Breitzke, her brother, Frank Breitzke, her best friend, Suzanne Morrissey-Fey, and many other friends and relatives.
Mary’s life will be celebrated on Friday, January 7, 2022 at the Tri County Chapel, 1592 Oneida Street, Menasha, WI 54952. Visitation from 2:00-5:00 p.m. Service at 5:00 p.m. For more information and to express condolences, please visit www.wichmannfuneralhomes.com.
Mary’s family extends an enormous thank you to the ThedaCare Appleton staff for their exceptionally kind and compassionate care of Mary in the last several days of her life.