February 27, 2021
A Ray of Sunshine Millie Chillemi passed away peacefully in her sleep on Saturday, February 27, 2021. She had been hospitalized several times the past year and was most recently receiving in-patient physical therapy. Millie leaves behind a devoted daughter and granddaughter, Francine Chillemi and Christina Kurtz, who will deeply miss their “Sunshine.” She was predeceased by her adoring husband and best friend, Frank Chillemi; two cherished sisters, Antoinette (DiPace) Murtagh and Josephine (DiPace) Vitagliano, and their husbands Ed and Joe, respectively; and her beloved brother, U.S. Navy veteran Vincent DiPace. Also very important to Millie were many aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, and close friends whom she considered part of her family. The last year of Millie’s life was enhanced immeasurably by the love she received from her attentive and passionate primary caregiver Darla, together with others on her caregiving team including Fam on weekends, Shanna on holidays, and Charity earlier on. As a child growing up in Newark, NJ, Millie spent a great deal of time with her father in his shoe repair shop, which was a busy place in a neighborhood where most people did not often buy new shoes. From those early experiences, Millie learned business skills and developed her talents for tact, diplomacy, industriousness, resourcefulness, organization, and problem-solving. These traits -- combined with her innate intelligence and lessons learned by helping to raise her three younger siblings -- served her well personally and professionally throughout her life. Millie was near the top of her class academically at West Side High School despite the fact that she had been taught to speak English only after she started elementary school. After graduation she worked as an executive secretary for several years at Diversey Corporation in Newark until she was promoted to take her boss’s job, Office Manager, when he retired after many years with the company. She was the first woman in the company’s history to hold that title. As with any other task she undertook, Millie excelled as Office Manager and formed friendships with many of the people she managed, as well as those in the Chicago corporate office who oversaw her work. Even now, former colleagues reminisce about Millie’s fashionable clothing, perfect hair and nails, and the very high heels she wore to work each day. Millie has been described as a “sharp dresser,” a “true lady,” a “consummate professional” and “one of the kindest and most generous people you could ever meet,“ whether she was interviewing someone for a job or attending an employee’s bridal shower. Although Millie was recognized as a trendsetter who inspired others, she never boasted and rarely talked about herself. She got along well with everyone and avoided negativity and controversy. She was a Non-Gemini whose mild manner, even keel, and moderation in all things was, astrologically speaking, unexpected for someone born on June 17. Throughout her career years, Millie continued to derive much enjoyment from her family, particularly her sisters’ children. She aimed to understand and encourage the interests of those she loved. One of her nephews, a lifelong baseball lover, recalls that Aunt Millie gave him his first brand new baseball mitt when he was a child. It was the thing he most wanted in the world, but his parents had other priorities. That gift made such an impact on him that, more than five decades later, he can still visualize the box that it came in. Millie enjoyed a varied social life: she visited Bermuda, Florida, the shore, dude ranches, and assorted other places, and she was a member of the Children of Mary Sodality. During this time she met the love of her life, the late Frank Chillemi, and soon thereafter Millie left her career behind to begin her great adventure as a wife and mother, which she considered the most rewarding roles of her life, along with being a grandmother. Millie and Frank settled into their custom home in Fairfield, NJ, where they dedicated themselves to raising their daughter, who excelled in school and eventually became an attorney. When Millie was not busy with her daughter or husband, she participated in activities that introduced her to new friends and new concepts: flower arranging; water aerobics; tennis; ice skating; sewing; needlepoint; crewelwork; tole painting; duck decoy painting; computer courses; book clubs; Broadway plays; and the list continues. She was also a faithful parishioner at St. Thomas More Church in Fairfield. Helping others was a natural part of Millie’s daily routine. She was a volunteer and donor for many charitable causes, the most notable being the library at Fairfield’s elementary school and the American Red Cross Braille Division. She was known for her thoughtfulness, always taking time to select the perfect card or gift or just to call someone to ask how they were. She really cared about people and bestowed many acts of kindness, both great and small. Millie’s creativity knew no bounds. She was an expert cook whose kitchen was fully-stocked with all the latest culinary equipment available; this earned her the nicknames CDO (Chief Domestic Officer) and Gadget Queen. Her tomato sauce, manicotti, and creampuffs were legendary, and Aunt Millie’s full-course breakfasts and holiday dinners were praised from coast to coast. She had an eye for interior decorating and took great care in selecting furnishings for her home. She made many professional-looking draperies and shades herself and sewed a variety of clothing items ranging from a 1960’s “maxi coat” made from faux snakeskin to numerous Halloween costumes that were works of art. A pretend home office managed by Millie kept her granddaughter Christina amused for hours at a time. Together they took and transcribed dictation, wrote letters, made copies, stapled papers, sealed envelopes, filed documents, and organized supplies. Christina was just having fun with her grandma but Millie knew she was helping to sharpen her grandchild’s reading, writing, and thinking skills and introducing her to the world of business. Many prized memories also arose from preparing dinners in Grandma’s kitchen, just sitting around the table or leaning on the counter, talking about everything and nothing in particular. On occasion Millie spontaneously called her family pet names like Bubbles, AngelFace, and Franklin. She could be surprisingly funny. Sometimes, when the collective mood was just right, the antics of “Silly Millie” caused her loved ones to laugh hysterically until they could not catch their breath. Those priceless moments will always be remembered with a smile. Millie believed everyone, especially her daughter and granddaughter, could be whatever they wanted to be and do whatever they wanted to do, if they worked hard enough, sought out the best opportunities, and surrounded themselves with good people. She aimed never to make anyone feel bad about their mistakes. She believed in picking yourself up, dusting yourself off, and moving forward to try again. Millie was quietly confident and proud of all she had accomplished. She nurtured the personal connections she had made over the years. Even as she got older, Millie remained in good physical shape, which she attributed to healthy eating, regular exercise, and clean living. She was a proponent of vitamins and apple cider vinegar, and she enjoyed a glass of wine with dinner. A funeral mass will be held on Saturday, March 6, at 11:00 a.m. at St. Thomas More Church, 12 Hollywood Avenue, Fairfield, which will be broadcast live and also made available for viewing at a later time. Arrangements are being handled by Stellato Funeral Home (973) 882-5588, and details can be found at www.stellatofuneralhomes.com. Written tributes or condolences can be offered at that website or mailed to Francine Chillemi c/o Stellato Funeral Home, 7 Two Bridges Rd., Fairfield, NJ 07004. For those who may wish to make donations in memory of Millie, please consider the West Essex First Aid Squad, the all-volunteer organization that promptly and expertly came to her rescue several times over the past few years (PO Box 662, West Caldwell, NJ 07007-0662; (973) 403-8568; https://westessexfas.org/donate) or St. Barnabas Medical Center (https://rwjbh.org/saint-barnabas-medical-center/giving/give-now); or Community Hospices of America Foundation (CHA Foundation c/o Hospice of New Jersey, 400 Broadacres Dr, 1st Floor, Bloomfield, NJ 07003; www.chafoundation.net/contribute-online (indicate the local organization Hospice of New Jersey)).
A Ray of Sunshine Millie Chillemi passed away peacefully in her sleep on Saturday, February 27, 2021. She had been hospitalized several times the past year and was most recently receiving in-patient physical therapy. Millie leaves behind... View Obituary & Service Information
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