Joan M. Bley

    Joan M. Bley was an accomplished woman — a wife and mother who became a self-taught accountant who handled the books at Bley Builders, her husband Leroy’s business, and later at Tires Unlimited in Port Washington.
    She and her husband were also international travelers through the Friendship Force, and they learned about other cultures by staying in private homes during their visits.
    “We traveled a great deal,” her husband Leroy said, listing countries that ranged from New Zealand and Australia to Russia, Germany and Austria. “We still correspond with many of the families we met in our travels.”
    That list includes an Irish woman who the couple met on their first trip, to Ireland,  when she was in eighth grade, he said.
    Even as they traveled throughout the world, Mrs. Bley retained her pride in her Luxembourg heritage, her husband said.
    A member of the Luxembourg American Cultural Society, Mrs Bley was thrilled when her daughter Amy Bley and granddaughter were able to attain Luxembourg citizenship after tracing her family’s lineage, her husband said.
    Mrs. Bley died Wednesday, Aug. 8, at her Port Washington home. She was 92.
    She had suffered from dementia for several years, her husband said.
    Mrs. Bley was a native of Belgium, born on Dec. 27, 1925, to Conrad and Helen Gilles Hames.
    The day she was born, a snowstorm prevented her mother from getting to the hospital, so a doctor arrived at the family home via snowplow to assist with her birth, her husband said.
    Her father ran the general store in Belgium, where Mrs. Bley made many lifelong friends.
    She recalled working alongside German  prisoners of war while picking vegetables for the local canning factory as a young woman, her family said.
    A 1943 graduate of Port Washington High School, she went to work in the office at Allen-Edmonds shoe factory in Belgium.
    She and Leroy Bley went on a double date while he was home on leave from the Navy during World War II. They corresponded throughout his time in the military, and when he returned they became engaged.
    “She was a faithful correspondent,” her husband said. “Little did she know when I got back that I had plans for us.”
    The couple married at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Lake Church on July 3, 1948.
    The couple, who recently celebrated their 70th anniversary, were known for Hawaiian-themed anniversary parties.
    “She was intrigued by Hawaii,” her husband said, noting he was stationed there for a short time during the war. “We never got back there.”
    The couple lived in Port Washington throughout their life — until recently, in houses built by her husband’s company.
    Mrs. Bley was an accomplished cook and baker who took culinary classes from Milwaukee Area Technical College at the former Wisconsin Street School in Port.
    Her specialties included butterhorns, apple pies and Christmas cookies, and she passed recipes for these and other favorites to her family.
    “It’s kind of intimidating because no one can make them like she did,” her daughter Amy said.
    After her four children were grown, Mrs. Bley went to work as an accountant at Tires Unlimited.
    Mrs. Bley and her husband were members of a sheepshead dinner club that met for more than 55 years. Each month, one of the five couples involved would host a dinner that everyone contributed to before playing cards.
    “Everyone would try to outdo each other,” her husband said.
    Mrs. Bley was also an accomplished bridge player and was a charter member of a bridge club that met for more than 50 years — a group featured on the cover of Ozaukee Press’ Transitions magazine in 2010.
    She learned the game from her mother, whose woman’s group met at her school to play bridge. If they were short a player, her mother would pull her out of class to fill in, her husband said.
    “She played a lot of bridge, and she was good at it,” he said.
    She also enjoyed playing dominoes and other card games with family members.
    Mrs. Bley was a member of the Port Washington Historical Society and a charter member of St. Peter of Alcantara Catholic Parish, now part of St. John XXIII Parish.
    Mrs. Bley is survived by her husband Leroy of Port Washington; children Linda (Steve) Gebert of Beavercreek, Ohio, Mary Bley of Port Washington; Paul (Natalie) of Falls Church, Va., and Amy Bley of Waukesha; grandchildren Julie (Esben) Hansen, Holly (fiance Paul Sehzue) Gebert, Melanie Gebert, John Francetic and Eleanor Tobin Griffin; and two great-grandchildren.
    She is further survived by her sister Beatrice Newlun of Green Bay, sister-in-law Eileen Redig of Port Washington; brother and sister-in-law Nick and Patricia Bley of Lynnwood, Wash., and brother-in-law Bob Niederkorn of Galesville.
    Mrs. Bley was preceded in death by her brothers Wilmer Hames and Lee Hames, sisters-in-law Ruth Hames, Patricia Hames and Mary Ellen Niederkorn and brothers-in-law Hallie Newlun, Walter Redig and William Krier.
    A Mass of Christian burial will be held at 10 a.m. Friday, Aug. 17, at St. John XXIII Parish, St. Peter of Alcantara Catholic Church, in Port Washington with Father Patrick Wendt officiating.
    Visitation will be at the church Friday from 9 a.m. until the service.
    Burial will be in St. Mary’s Cemetery, Port Washington.
    In lieu of flowers, memorials to the Friendship Force of Greater Milwaukee or the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight are suggested.
    Funeral arrangements are being handled through Poole Funeral Home and Crematory, Port Washington.




Click Here to Send a Letter to the Editor

Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


User login