It any one word describes Dr. Dee Bielecki, it’s love. It’s what she called people. She would tell her students: “Love, let’s pray about this” or “Love, you can do better.” It’s how she lived. She was always there to love everyone, no matter what.
Dr. Dee Bielecki, 73, impacted thousands of people with her love for them, and her Lord. Saturday, July 8, she passed away leaving behind a legacy that will carry on long after her.
Bielecki retired in 2004 after 15 years of teaching at North Greenville and was presented with an honorary doctorate of letters and was the commencement speaker.
She was a constant encourager to everyone who entered her classroom or her office.
For a decade and a half at NGU she taught in the Humanities Division. Bielecki helped to start the interdisciplinary studies degree program and served as an advisor to the Black Student Fellowship/Brothers and Sisters Fellowship.
A native of Piedmont, SC, Bielecki graduated from Furman University with a B.A., University of Puerto Rico with a M.A., University of Hartford with a M.Ed., and Fordham University with a Ph.D. She taught children of military and government officials in Puerto Rico for 32 years. She was involved in numerous civic organizations. At the time of her death, Bielecki was the Commissioner of the South Carolina Commission on National and Community Service. She was a member of the Oconee County School District board of trustees and a deacon at Seneca Presbyterian Church. “Dee was a champion for teaching and learning,” said Dr. Valerie Truesdale, Oconee County Superintendent.
Nine weeks ago she had an accidental fall and had a subsequent concussion that caused bleeding and seizures. She was sent directly to the hospital where she stabilized from the injury, but still had trouble walking and remembering.
In the rehab unit, she unfortunately got a staph infection that put her in ICU the first time. She managed to recover from that and went back to rehab. Then two weeks later, she got pneumonia which put her back in ICU for another week. She was then moved to the pulmonary treatment floor of Greenville Memorial.
She seemed to be doing better, even laughing and talking with Dr. Cathy Sepko, Humanities Division Chair, and Shur Gopal, Mass Communication Professor, on a July 4 visit. However, she had a turn for the worse Friday, July 7. She began having breathing and heart problems and was taken back to ICU. Her kidneys failed and she was put on dialysis. She continued to decline and was placed on life support on Saturday. She died at 5 p.m.
She is survived by her husband Andy, four sons, three daughter-in-laws, nine grandchildren, and two sisters.
A memorial service was held the following Wednesday, July 12 with many from NGU participating. Rev. Ben Smoak (’01) spoke at the service. Tim Hendrix (’05) played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes. He also played the mandolin and joined Allison Staley (’05) and Amanda Staley (’05) on violins for “I’ll Fly Away.”
Her colleague and close friend, Dr. Sepko aptly wrote of Bielecki, “I am reminded of a quote that seems fitting of the way she lived her life: ‘Live your life so that when you are born you cry, but others rejoice at your coming, and when you die, you rejoice as you are going while those left behind weep.’ I am weeping because I have lost one of the best friends that I ever had. I am sure, however, that she is rejoicing.”
Article published in the Fall 2006 issue of the North Greenville University Magazine.
Memories of Dr. Bielecki
“Every time our class would meet she would ask for prayer requests, shape her hand like a cup and place the request in her hand. She was using her hands to symbolize that she was taking those requests to Christ.” – Erin Wall (’00)
“I took Dr. Bielecki for a number of classes during my time at North Greenville. Why…because she cared for me as not only a student, but a person. Sometimes when I lacked discipline she was always there to give an encouraging word.” – Cayman Lucy (’04)
“Dr. Dee Bielecki was such an inspiration to me while I was in college. There were times when it got tough and I wanted to quit, but she was always there to lift me up with encouraging words.” – Jason Ross (’98)
“Dr. Bielecki was a great mentor of mine at NGU. She inspired me in so many ways it is hard to describe. She never compromised any of her beliefs and always encouraged others to do the same. I believe every student who talked with her was touched by her ministry at NGU.” – Melissa Barnette (’02)
“Dr. Bielecki was such a good mom to me as I was three hours away from the real thing. She taught me so many things. When I found out about my brain tumor, she told me that the Lord was doing this for a reason and the only way I would get through it would be totally depending on Him and as always, she was right.” – Barbie Craven (’04)
“She always had a sweet spirit and I always loved going to her class and running into her on campus. She was a blessing to have in my life and she will be greatly missed. I look forward to seeing her again.” – Mary Lane (’01)
“Dee was one of the best teachers I ever had, and made history live for me. I wanted to emulate her, and was so excited when she let me teach one of her classes when I was an older student. She coached me as I prepared the material, supported and encouraged me, and gave me helpful feedback.” – Anne Egan (Puerto Rico student)
“She infused me with an appreciation and love of history (and its relevance to current affairs) that I carry with me today – and over 20 years of U.S. diplomatic service – as I have during my undergraduate and graduate years in the study of foreign affairs and international relations.” – Juan Cruz (Puerto Rico student)
“Dee’s compassion grew from her faith. In my last visit with her, I asked if there was anything I could do before I left. She quickly responded that I could pray for her. I did. Our prayer together is my last and best memory.” – Lisa Van Riper (NGU professor)
“The last time I saw Dr. Bielecki, as usual, she didn’t want to talk about herself, but wanted to know how my daughter, Joy, was doing. She even called Joy on her cell phone from the hospital a few days before her death.” – Mayson Easterling (VP for Denominational Relations)
“The very first time I met Dee, we were at an English department meeting at one of the faculty members’ homes. She was late and she rushed up to me and gave me this big hug and said, “Love, you’re the one we’ve been praying would come. I’ve lit a candle for you!” – Dr. Becky Thompson (NGU professor)
“I still find myself wanting to pick up my cell phone to call her as she had made me promise to keep her up-to-date on the NGU happenings. Even after she retired two years ago, she kept close contact with her North Greenville family as she called us, showing up at ballgames, Sigma Tau Delta teas, and the Women’s Auxiliary Board meetings. She was a tireless educator, an advocate for students, and a dear colleague and friend, one who is missed almost daily by those who knew and loved her.” – Dr. Cathy Sepko (NGU professor).
Honoring her legacy
A fund has been set up to honor Dr. Dee Bielecki at NGU. First, the money will be used to repair and replenish the rocking chairs on the porch of White Hall. She placed the chairs there and spent many hours talking and encouraging in them. Funds will also be used to add books to the English collection in the library. To contribute contact the development office at (864) 977-7182.