Cleo Jean Kocik thumbnail

Cleo Jean Kocik

March 23, 1946 - May 25, 2022

Cleo Jean Kocik passed away unexpectedly at the age of 76 on May 25, 2022 in Hendersonville, North Carolina. Jean was born on March 23, 1946 in Cincinnati, Ohio to the late Delbert and Larlie (Perry) Chenault shortly before the family moved to Detroit, Michigan.

Jean was absolutely a fashionista. It didn’t matter if she was just running up to the grocery store or going to a five-star restaurant, she made sure she always looked her best. Shoes! My gosh but she loved shoes! Her shoe collection was unmatched; boxes and boxes and boxes in her dressing room, all organized by color, labeled and neatly stacked. And jewelry! She had such an innate attention for detail; everything she wore was expertly matched with the perfect set of earrings and necklace and bracelets and rings. It’s as if she were channeling her inner Coco Chanel! She once told her two oldest granddaughters, “I’m not the kind of grandma who will teach you how to bake, I’m the kind of grandma who will teach you how to buy diamonds.” No matter what Jean was wearing, the two things that always caught everyone’s attention were her amazing big blue eyes and her fantastic legs.

She also had a natural gift for interior design. She began her career working for Fisher Wallpaper and Paint in Dearborn in 1970. In 1975 she moved to Sherwin Williams in Ypsilanti. Then, in the early 80’s, she went to work for Anderson Interiors in Ann Arbor and was quickly promoted to Manager of the Interior Design Department, and very soon gained a reputation for her extraordinary talents. She designed anything from private homes to commercial properties; her proudest accomplishment being completely re-designing Muehlig’s Funeral Chapel in Ann Arbor.

She was able to realize her dream of becoming a business owner when she opened Jean Kocik interiors in Brighton, MI in 1987. She specialized in residential homes in the Brighton Area, but also acquired her Michigan Builders License and joined the Home Builders Association of Livingston County. In 1989, she partnered with Tom Boyle Building in the construction of a home in the Pine Ridge subdivision in Brighton, not only making recommendations on design changes to the floor plans, but completely furnishing the home, selecting all of the stain colors, paint colors, countertops, flooring, lighting, hardware, etc. In 1990 the completed project was selected to be a showcase home on a charity fundraiser parade of homes.

Jean was very protective of those around her, an absolute force to be reckoned with. Whether it be marching into a Vice Principal’s office to come to the defense of, and advocate for, her child, or stopping her car and getting out to confront a neighborhood bully who had been hassling her kids, or convincing a science teacher that her child who was terrified of bugs was absolutely not going to be forced to create an insect collection, or going into her granddaughter’s place of employment and chewing out a manager who deserved it, taking her granddaughter with her as she left. She was intimidated by no one.

As fierce as she was, she was equally known for her quick wit and sense of humor. She could get you laughing until you couldn’t stop. And just when you thought you had pulled yourself back together, it only took one look at her and you were both laughing again until your sides ached. Her desire to make others laugh naturally led to being a prankster as well. You might find a fake mouse inside your shoe; you might find yourself receiving a call from someone purporting to be from the Social Security Administration notifying you they had found an error on your birth certificate and you were actually a year older than you thought; you might open your can of carbonated beverage she brought you only to realize, after popping the tab, it had been placed on the paint shaker. Whenever she was around she had everyone in stitches.

Jean was happiest when she had a sleeping baby on her chest. She was the baby whisperer in the family, getting even the fussiest of babies to quickly calm and fall asleep.  She began honing her skills at the age of 13 when she became an aunt for the first time to her nephew Phillip; she would relentlessly beg to babysit him and steal him any chance she got, playing house like he was her very own live doll. She would even approach a complete stranger who was dealing with a fussy, seemingly inconsolable baby, and offer her help, calming their baby almost instantly. Throughout her lifetime her children and grandchildren, as well as hundreds of other babies, found comfort on her chest.

Jean met the love of her life, Bill Kocik, in the summer of 1963. At the time, Bill already had a girl who wanted to be his. When Jean realized she had competition, she quickly got to work edging her out and, in true Jean fashion, she won with some quick thinking and a clever plan. From there on out, Bill was hers and she was his. They eloped June 19th, 1964, just three days after her high school graduation, and spent the next 58 years being a team. Together they built a very successful life. They were incredibly proud of their children and grandchildren. Jean would often say to Bill, while looking at photos of their daughters, how they made such beautiful girls. Before starting their family, they made a pact to always put their childrens’ needs first, then hers, and finally his. Bill and Jean Kocik chose to love each other until the very end.

Jean’s parents were born and raised in Wolfe County, Kentucky and she felt a deep connection with her southern roots, so after she and Bill retired they moved to Hendersonville, North Carolina. Jean was a woman of deep conviction who strongly believed in being giving and compassionate to those in need.  During her retirement years she volunteered at a rape crisis center, a woman’s domestic violence shelter and an unwed mothers’ support program. Together she and Bill supported the Interfaith Ministry program that feeds and provides shelter for the homeless; regularly made clothing and food donations to the Hendersonville Rescue Mission; and helped the local fire and rescue department to purchase much needed new life saving equipment, as well as helped various other organizations.

Jean is survived by her husband of 58 years, William Jo Kocik Sr, her children Carrie Jean (Rod) Humble, Tracey Jill (Ken) Pardiac, Hollie Jo (Jeff) Sly, William Jo (Colleen) Kocik Jr; grandchildren Erin Ashley Humble, Austin Dee (Jill) Humble, Jocelyn Renee Kocik , Kayla Marie Sly, Tyler Francis Stephen Sly, Anastasia Nicole Kocik, Victoria Paige Kocik, William Jo Kocik III, Hayden Scott Kocik and Mitchell Thomas Dean Kocik; great grandsons Emmett William Humble and Wyatt Denzil Humble; sister Rita Kay Dodge; many nieces and nephews. She is preceded in death by her parents, Delbert and Larlie Chenault and siblings Mattie Alice Faulkner, Edith Green Stamper, Delbert Jack Chenault and Nancy Jane Stouder.

Cremation has taken place and a Celebration of Jean’s Life will be held at a later date. The family is requesting that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made in her honor to Old Newsboy Goodfellow Fund, an organization that holds a very special place in her heart.

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