Legal Aid Executive Director Michael Chielens dies suddenly at age 62


– Photo by Josh Tyron courtesy of Joy Fossel

By Diana L. Coleman
Legal News

Michael Chielens, Executive Director of Legal Aid of Western Michigan passed away November 2 after a valiant seven-month battle with cancer.  The Muskegon offices of Legal Aid of Western Michigan were closed in the afternoon on Friday, November 8, 2013, to allow local legal aid staff to attend the funeral services, which were held at 2 p.m. at the Fountain Street Church in Grand Rapids.

Attorney Dan Bonner, managing attorney of the Muskegon office of Legal Aid of Western Michigan, had only kind things to say about Chielens.  Clielens held the position of Executive Director of Legal Aid of Western Michigan since 1996, and Bonner worked in the Muskegon office.   “Mike and I both started at legal aid in 1996 and became close friends through the years. We not only shared a common start date with legal aid, but we were born only three months apart in 1951,” said Bonner.  “Due to issues both political and funding-related, Legal Aid has gone through some rough seas, but Mike always brought us safely to shore.”

According to his obituary, he dedicated his life to social justice and worked diligently to achieve equality in the world.  Clielens was born in Detroit, Michigan, and began his legal-aid career in Jacksonville, Florida.  In 1983 he returned to Michigan and settled in the Heritage Hill neighborhood of Grand Rapids.
Clielens life was filled with laughter, baseball-both real and fantasy, rock and roll music, beer, and the love of his family and friends. His philosophy was, “You can have too much money, but never too many friends.”

Memorial contributions in his memory can be directed to Legal Aid of Western Michigan, 89 Ionia Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503; or call 616-774-0672.