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1925 Irene 2023

Irene M. Strang

June 23, 1925 — March 28, 2023

Irene M. Strang, nee Stahler, of Shirley passed away peacefully on March 28, 2023 at age 97. A dedicated mother, sister and friend, she will be remembered for her wonderful sense of humor and her deep and abiding love of books, wine, films, theater, cats and opera.

Irene was born on June 23, 1925. The eldest of three children and the only girl, she was raised in Malden, Medford and Saugus. She was a solitary child, and as soon as she learned to read her favorite place became the public library. During summer vacation, she used the family’s library cards to get around the borrowing limit; after exhausting the children’s library, she used her parents’ cards to access the adult section, devouring everything from Zane Gray to “Camille.” Her other passions were the movies, which prompted her to create her own library of meticulously detailed scrapbooks of favorite actors and films; and opera, which she discovered purely by accident as a teenager when she tuned into the Saturday afternoon broadcast of the Met. She loved to sew, and not only created the couture-detailed suit she was married in, but later on made most of her children’s clothing.

Irene excelled in school, even winning a 7th grade spelling bee, but in high school had to take commercial courses, instead of the exclusively academic college-prep curriculum. Working as a secretary and bookkeeper after graduating, she was determined to find a dentist who was willing to take on the much needed task of straightening her teeth. This was no mean feat during WWII, but with her typical resourcefulness, she found one who was colorblind and therefore 4-F, and who wanted to try his hand at orthodontia. She also became the first in her family to attend college classes.

She married Donald Strang in 1951; and continued to work as he obtained his Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering while also employed at Raytheon Co. in Bedford. Four years later they designed and built their own house in Harvard, moving in just before their first child was born. Irene delighted in being an involved stay-at-home mother and introduced her children to the theater, museums, film, and concerts at a young age. In addition to crewel and needlepoint, she discovered yet another talent for knitting, producing beautiful handmade sweaters for herself and her family.

She became active in the Unitarian Church and served as the president of the town’s branch of League of Women Voters. In 1962 she joined the newly created local chapter of the Great Books Foundation, which was initially made up of other young mothers in Harvard. She eventually became a regional leader, and her involvement in it lasted most of her life. She particularly enjoyed the Spring Institute gatherings and was instrumental in developing both book resources and finding venues for the event.

After her divorce, she returned to the workplace as a secretary and office manager at Harvard Realty and worked there until her retirement. After she moved to Shirley in the early 1980’s, she served as a board trustee and treasurer for her condominium group for over 14 years.

Irene never lost her sense of fun, and was particularly proud to have celebrated her 92nd birthday with a helicopter tour over Boston – in the co-pilot’s seat. She is predeceased by her former husband and her two brothers, Robert and Richard. She leaves behind her daughter, Meredith, an art restorer and author of Los Angeles and Shirley, who was her sole caregiver for the last three years of her life and was with her at her death, a son David, a Gilmanton, NH physician, and her nephews Kevin Stahler of Austin, TX, and John Stahler of Chicago, IL.

In lieu of floral tribute, please consider a donation in Irene’s memory to the Harvard Public Library.

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