Melanie R. Keveles died on Nov. 25 in Duluth, Minn., and was laid to rest next to her parents, Abraham and Natalie Shenkman, on Long Island.
Keveles was born on Dec. 9, 1948, and grew up in Lynbrook. Loved ones described her as a force of nature and she contributed to the lives of her family, friends, coaching clients and fellow patients.
Keveles had an infectious laugh and was welcoming, inspirational, enthusiastic, optimistic and compassionate. Her overarching passion was helping those interested in advancing their careers and fulfilling their life aspirations. She lived, taught, and coached in five European countries, as well as in New York City; Albany, St. Louis, and Duluth-Superior, in Minnesota. Her death has brought forth tributes and expressions of grief from hundreds of former clients, students, fellow patients and friends.
She fought her cancer fiercely for 51 months using traditional and innovative integrative approaches. A woman who strived to control her own destiny, she drafted her own obituary when the cancer was diagnosed as Stage 4.
Her writing was found on her desk 22 months ago, and here is what she wrote:
“Melanie Keveles (nee Shenkman) [died] peacefully in her sleep. She was born in Yonkers, grew up in Lynbrook, and graduated with a masters’ degree in English education from the State University of New York at Albany. Not quite happy with her career direction in public education, she and her husband Gary set off on an adventure to live and work in Europe from 1974-79.
Upon returning, Melanie found her way into the field of career development, ultimately becoming a consultant in a new field called outplacement, which was dedicated to helping people who lost their jobs to get new direction and employment. Later she became a certified coach and from the late 1990s on served people locally, regionally and around the world in their career and life challenges. Melanie co-authored, “Fired for Success” with Judith Dubin and wrote “Scrappy Startups” about successful women entrepreneurs. She self-published a book about her father, “Getting Just Started at 100.”
Melanie lived in Superior, Wisc. for the past 34 years, and leaves behind her husband of 48 years, Gary Keveles, her son, Ross, and daughter-in-law, Missy, who live] in West St. Paul, Minn. Melanie had dreamed of living until 102 – to surpass her father by at least a year – but obviously, she didn’t make it.”
In her career and life coaching practice, Keveles was a seeker of those who had a wide range of interests- — she characterized them as having Renaissance souls. They would master one set of skills and then evolve into another new field. She strongly believed her clients demonstrated the capacity to continuously grow and change. Keveles promoted “dream, courage and action” as critical verbs of life. To her, people were creative, resourceful and whole, and she passionately encouraged all to explore their full potentials.
It was frequently said that you always knew where Keveles stood with an issue, especially when it came to defending human rights. At the same time, she was modest in her presentation of self.
Growing up Jewish, she frequently mentioned how much she admired a “Woman of Valor,” Proverbs 31. Keveles personified such a woman with her truthfulness, faithfulness, courage and love of others. She worked to care for her family, while managing an at-home effective and efficient business. Keveles accomplished her work at home and in business with a sense of joy and delight. She was indeed a woman of valor: “her value is more precious than jewels and her worth is far above rubies.”
Thanks to the heroic efforts of the staff at the Block Center for the Integrative Treatment of Cancer in Skokie, Ill., the gynecological oncology team at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and health care providers at Essentia Health (including the ninth-floor nurses at St. Mary’s Hospital) in Duluth, Minn. for their medical treatment, dedication and compassion during her uncompromising and fierce fight with cancer.