Irene Anderson Eyre, age 84, died of natural causes on June 19th, 2022, at The Cottages in Meridian, Idaho. She and her husband Jim much enjoyed their past eight years at the assisted living facility, making many friends among fellow residents and staff. However, Irene suddenly became very weak and disoriented a few weeks ago. Thanks to hospice care, she was able to remain with her husband in the familiar surroundings of the couple's suite until the end. Local family members were bedside at her passing and family members far away were able to have a group video chat with her just a few days prior. Her final oft-repeated words were "I love you, I love you."
Love for her family and her faith was the center of Irene's life. A native of tiny Bluebell, Utah, every line in her family tree can be traced back to Mormon pioneer stock of the 1800s. Irene was born the second of four daughters to LeRoy Dell Anderson and Lela Hancock Anderson. Her family lived in a two-room log cabin without running water and with an adjacent outhouse. Sometimes newborn calves were brought in to warm by the wood stove. The Andersons were very happy with many loving relatives nearby. Irene's maternal great-grandfather, Levison Hancock, owned the first general store in Bluebell and had a single gas pump for automobiles and farm machinery. The Andersons were all local farmers.
However, the Great Depression made it difficult for Irene's father to make a living in Bluebell, so when she was three-years-old he moved the family to Magna, Utah. Irene often told with pride how her father went to the Kennecott Copper Mine looking for work. There were about 30 men that day seeking employment. After being told there were no jobs available, all of the men eventually left except Roy and one other man. They stayed, and the men hiring said if they wanted a job that bad they could have one. Roy went on to work more than 30 years and retire from Kennecott as a carpenter and handyman.
Roy had only an eighth-grade education, but he was a tenacious and hard-working provider. He purchased a three-room home in Magna and later a two-acre lot in Granger (now West Valley City). Over three years, Roy worked weekends and evenings after his shift at Kennecott to build what for Irene was a palace: a home with two bedrooms, a kitchen, combined dining area and living room, basement with a laundry and pantry, and best of all, an indoor bathroom! Irene was in the ninth grade when she no longer needed to walk to an outhouse at night.
Irene's future in-laws moved into a new house a few doors down from her Granger home while Jim was serving in the U.S. Navy. At age seventeen, Irene met Jim while he was home on leave from the Navy and they dated on subsequent leaves. Jim had not been very active in his religion but through her good influence he returned to his faith, and when he completed his Navy service in 1957 they married. Then-apostle Spencer W. Kimball, Irene's grandmother's first cousin, sealed them in the Salt Lake LDS Temple.
After Jim graduated from Utah State University in Logan, the young couple moved around a lot with a series of employment. Their homes in chronological order were in Emmett, Idaho; Moapa Hidden Valley Ranch, Nevada; Logandale, Nevada; Magna, Utah; the Chico State University Farm; Chico, California; Santa Maria, California; Lancaster, California; Salem, Oregon; and finally, Eugene, Oregon.
Irene was 32-years-old with four young children when Jim was transferred to Eugene as a dairy and food specialist for the Oregon Department of Agriculture. All six children would say they were raised in Eugene; the youngest two daughters were born there. After 25 years in Eugene, Jim and Irene were transferred again, living 14 years in Tillamook. They loved the Oregon coast and Tillamook Creamery's world-famous ice cream, cheese, and other dairy products. Then following retirement, they joined their son Dell in Boise, Idaho.
Many daily aspects of Irene's early life are difficult for her children, and especially her grandchildren, to envision as the world has changed so much. They don't rely on a large garden and home canning to provide most of their fruits and vegetables. They use a mechanical breadmaker instead of their own muscles to turn out fluffy homemade rolls and bread. They don't sew all of their own clothing or make all of the quilts on their beds. Nevertheless, Irene trod many familiar pathways that have positively influenced her descendants' life journeys. She supported her husband as a "beautician" cutting hair and painting nails as he became the first member of his family to graduate from college. There were few books in the homes of her childhood and her married life, but she wanted her family to be educated. For example, it was a major purchase for her and Jim to buy their children a complete set of the Encyclopedia Britannica. That expensive resource aided many a high school research project before the days of the Internet and Google. All of her six children have attended college.
Although Irene could not read music, she was musical. She was an alto in many church choirs, and she loved to sing silly songs to her children and grandchildren, a favorite being "There was an old man who had an old sow. . . ," which was always performed with very loud pig-snorting noises. She purchased a used piano and cleaned house weekly for her children's piano teacher in exchange for their piano lessons. She also made sure her sons had the high school band instruments they wanted.
Though other knowledge is important, Irene taught her children that knowledge of God is essential. She taught them to pray daily, and she knew how to listen for answers to her own prayers. For example, thanks to fervent prayers on behalf of her eldest daughter, when 27-year-old Kathleen came home late one night from copy-editing at the Eugene Register-Guard, Irene told her that the Lord wanted her to resume reporting for The Associated Press and she must call AP immediately the next morning to get her new position. Irene knew little of the professional job search process, and her daughter thought her emphatic advice even more odd since Kathleen had felt inspired to leave AP and return to the West just the year before. However, as a result of this maternal pressure to make the call the next morning, Kathleen soon became an AP newsreporter in Jackson, Mississippi, an almost foreign post to her and her mother, but not an unknown place to God. In addition to working, Kathleen met her eternal companion in Jackson.
Irene's toil to help pay for her three sons' LDS missions involved sewing drapery and bedspreads for a Eugene design store, but largely in her own garage workshop. This allowed her to remain home with her younger children. She stood for hours in the garage sewing with professional machinery but without a heated space in winter or air conditioning in summer. However, she never complained and was so proud of her three elders sharing the gospel.
Irene's spirituality aided not only her family but many within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Among many callings, she served as president of the Relief Society and Primary, the women's and children's organizations of the church. Serving in the church's Moapa Paiute Indian Reservation branch was a particularly dear time for her. She helped to build the reservation's first LDS chapel. When she served as Relief Society president with Bishop Don Ainge in Eugene, he praised her as "a woman without guile." That is an apt summary of her personality: simple, straightforward, loyal, and true.
Irene is survived by her children: Kathleen Loyd of Athens, Georgia; Russell Eyre of Marysville, Washington; Jay Eyre of Washougal, Washington; Dell Eyre of Boise, Idaho; Jeanine Oler of Olalla, Washington; and Lori Eyre of Bend, Oregon. She is the grandmother of nineteen and great-grandmother of eleven. Irene is also survived by two younger sisters, Carol Eyre (who married Jim's younger brother) of American Fork, Utah, and Darlene Woodland, of Salt Lake City, Utah. She was preceded in death by her parents and older sister ReNae Sparks.