Michele Bilyeu learned to hand sew at age 4 and to use her Alaskan grandmother's treadle sewing machine by age 12. She went from sewing all of her own clothing, to most of her family's clothing, to costume design and construction for the Children's Educational Theatre, the McNary Theatre Department, and the Pentacle Community Theatre, all in Salem, Oregon.
She has been an avid quilter for 30 years, and has a personal goal of donating 25 quilts a year to community service programs. Michele has exhibited quilts in local exhibits, in local open houses and tour of homes venues, and has them currently on display in the lobbies of hospice homes and community service organization venues in Ashland, Salem and Portland, Oregon as well as in Douglas and Juneau, Alaska.
Michele is a member of the Mid-Valley Quilters, Salem Community Quilters, the Liberated Quilters, and the Artful Webring Quilters.
Fifteen members of Michele's immediate family have had, or still have, Alzheimer's disease. Michele continues to spend many months a year caring for her mother in their childhood Alaskan home. Her mother, Nell Peltier Savikko, is 85 years old, has advanced Alzheimer's, is blind and can no longer walk. Because of her family's ongoing care and commitment, she continues to live in their family home on Douglas Island in SE Alaska near Juneau. Nell is still able to communicate with her family, to have occasional moments of deep clarity, and is amazingly able to maintain a sense of humor...in spite of having lost almost all other physical abilities.
It is because of her mother, her father, and her thirteen additional aunts and uncles, that Michele is deeply committed to the work of Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative and honored to be part of the 2011 traveling exhibit, "Alzheimer's Illustrated: From Heartbreak to Hope."