Belleville - Claire M. Gafke, age 43 of Belleville, passed away on December 2nd at home. She was born on July 13, 1975 in Madison the daughter of Howard and Alice Gafke.
Claire's face often had a smile, but behind that smile, she struggled with mental illness for over 20 years. Her family always tried to get her the help she needed and made sure she was safe.
Her mother always helped her through her anxiety and depression battles that she incurred in life. Claire was a wonderful aunt helping her sister Susan take care of her twin niece and nephew. She loved to babysit the kids and play games while hanging out. They called her Claire Bear because she loved to give "Bear Hugs". She liked getting out of the house to shop and go out to eat with family. She enjoyed walking the bike trail near home and would always comment on the beauty of nature, that was her therapy. Claire loved all animals and had several dogs over the years. Her favorite dog was a Boston Terrier named Basco who gave her many years of enjoyment and laughter. Claire had the most beautiful smile and contagious laugh, she always thanked everyone for helping her, saying I love you and always telling us, I'm Ok.
Claire is survived by her father Howard Gafke of Belleville, brother David (Lisa) Gafke of Verona, sister Susan (Walter) Steele and their children Jake and Nicole of Belleville. Her nephew Eric McCarville, and niece Tatum Wienen. Her aunts Elizabeth (Wayne) Kalsow, Laura (Joe) Jones, and her uncle Larry (Linda) Goad. She was preceded in death by her mother Alice and sister Joan McCarville.
Claire had a special high school girlfriend, Jaime who kept in touch with cards and pictures and visited every Christmas. The family would like to thank Jaime for her dedicated friendship with Claire over the years.
A private family celebration of Claire's life will be held on a later date.
Cress Funeral & Cremation Service
3610 Speedway Road, Madison
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Claire made some lovely jewelry in her high school jewelry class with Mrs. Kringle.
Claire, your friendship was such an integral part of my childhood. Growing up in Basco left me with a mountain of incredible memories of you. Playing with your dog, Jumper…visiting your sister’s farm…our Saturday bowling team where you always played ‘Bad to the Bone’ and ‘Living on a Prayer’ and just everyday trouble finding in the street of Basco. Mostly, I remember how uninhibited and fun you were and the two of us always, always laughing. We lost touch after high school and I’m so sorry to hear how much you struggled. Your spirit and laugher were truly unmatched. I adored you growing up and will hold dear my wonderful memories of you. Rest easy, my friend.
Claire was one of my best friends. I have great memories of us going on a hot air balloon ride together. She hung out at my house. I loved her very much and I prayed for her every day. I knew she struggled, but I could not be with her as much as I would have liked. I bumped in to her from time to time and we always hugged and told each other how much we loved each other. To Claire's family, I send my sincerest sympathy and may God bless you.
Claire was so incredibly dear-hearted. I will remember her delightful laugh, her sweet spirit, her ability to make others smile. She lifted my spirits when it was my role to try to lift hers. Claire is an inspiration to find the joy in life, even when experiencing dark forces. She has impacted my soul, my profession, and my humanity profoundly. My many thoughts and sincerest condolences to those most close to her.
Claire, you were a true and genuine friend. You always had a great sense of humor and that chuckle you had was one of a kind. You had such a kind, loving heart and reminded people that you loved them and cared about them. So many people forget to do that in life, but you never did no matter how much space and time lapsed. I never had a sister, but you were always there watching out for me and giving me honest, sisterly advice. Your loyalty was unwavering. You loved your family and your pet dogs. You were a proud aunt who could never say enough about your beloved nieces and nephews and you were so happy to show off their pictures as they grew up. I have so many memories of the awesome times we shared in school like going to State Street downtown and going on that FBLA trip. You were there as a bridesmaid in my wedding, and there when my boys were born. We enjoyed going to the fair to see the farm animals and watch the concerts. I remember when I would stop by the house and you would say, "Let's go for a walk!" and we would go on those long nature walks. You knew how to spoil the boys with gifts and treats, as well as hugs. I will treasure all these memories as I will treasure you in my heart until we meet again, my friend. Rest in Peace, I love you, Claire.
Howard, Susie and David and your families, words can not express the deep sadness I feel for all of you right now, losing Alice and now Claire. I am so very sorry. May you feel God's everlasting love, embracing you through the support and comfort of your family and friends.
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