Irene Eelkema

Obituary of Irene J. Eelkema

Irene J. Eelkema, 93, died April 28, 2021. She was born in Duluth, Minnesota, on June 29,1927, the first child and only daughter of Eleanore Westman and Henry Edward Jacobson. Irene attended and was homecoming queen of Duluth State Teacher's College. On October 22, 1949, she married Herman Harrison Eelkema. The couple lived in Minneapolis, Rochester, and Fargo before moving permanently to St. Paul in 1960. Irene's love of books and reading shaped her life. In her lifetime she owned, read, remembered and shared hundreds of books. Early American history and biographies of early Americans were her favorite subjects. She also had a special interest in children's literature, and enjoyed sending children's books from her collection as presents to her great grandchildren. While raising six children, Irene enrolled in the University of Minnesota, earning a BA in Humanities is 1978, and a MA in Library Science in 1982. She volunteered for and worked at the University of Minnesota's Kerlan Collection of Children's Books. She passed along her love of reading to all her children, grandchildren and greatgrandchildren. Irene admired and fostered creativity. She was very proud of her mother's and grandmother's abilities as writers and artists, and also her family's endeavors in painting, writing, quilting, letter press, woodworking, and glass fusing. Irene could also draw and paint, and at times enjoyed quilting, stain-glass panel making, and furniture refinishing. Her true passion, however, was genealogy. Through extensive research she traced her mother's family back to the Puritan poet Anne Dudley Bradstreet, and Anne's father, one of the founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. She traced her father's family back to the early 1700's in Norway. Irene was a very intelligent, and gentle, but not meek woman. She created a unique bond with all those in her life. She had a gift for giving and receiving affection. She was never too busy to chat on the phone, or to say yes to someone who wanted to visit. Irene loved to write and send notes and cards of greeting on birthdays and holidays. She received hundreds of thank you letters, and cards, and saved them all in pretty paper boxes. Irene had many joys in her life, including a very close and loving marriage of 64 years, many long and enduring friendships, and seeing her six children grow to adulthood. She also experienced great sorrows in the death of her husband and her sons Harrison and Robert. She enjoyed excellent health. Until her final brief hospitalization and hospice stay, she had never been hospitalized, except for the births of her six children. Irene and her husband were dedicated Minnesota Viking fans, and were season ticket holders from the inaugural 1960 season until Herman's death in 2013. They hosted tailgate parties for every home game at the old Metropolitan stadium-no matter how cold or snowy the weather. In her later years Irene loved watching football on TV with her sons. Irene was a great baker and cook. After her family was raised on three hot and nutritious meals each day, Irene indulged herself in a chocolate based, nearly vegetable free diet. Irene loved her family, books and magazines, butter, chocolate, coffee, birds, art, sunny but cool weather, and anything colored purple. She disliked conflict, dreary weather, housework, and being the shortest adult in any room. She was preceded in death by her parents, her husband, her sons Harrison and Robert, her brother James, and son-in-law Daniel Vorum. She is survived by sons William (Kathleen), James (Linda), and John, daughter Elizabeth, brothers-in-law Robert Eelkema and Ben Morgan, sister-in-law Ruth Jacobson, many grandchildren and greatgrandchildren and wonderful friends Dodes, Anneliese and Stephen. Interment of Irene's ashes at the Fort Snelling National Cemetery and a memorial luncheon were private. Anyone wishing to honor Irene's memory is asked to make a donation to their community library. Interment of Irene's ashes at the Fort Snelling National Cemetery and a memorial luncheon were private. Anyone wishing to honor Irene's memory is asked to make a donation to their community library.
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