BENZONIA — Irene Helen Orr, a lifelong resident of Benzie County, passed away at the Homesteader in Benzonia on May 28, 2010. She was 85. Born March 24, 1925, in Pleasanton Township, she was the oldest of Arthur and Flora Schlueter's three daughters.
She married her high school sweetheart, James (Gene) Orr on Oct. 26, 1946, and they were blessed with 62 years of life together. Most of these years were spent at Twin Orr-Chards on Upper Herring Lake, where she and Gene raised their daughter, Beverly and partnered a fruit business, both of which were a source of great pride to her.
Irene lived her entire life in Benzie County and grew up in a home that was filled with music. Her father played the violin, her mother the piano. Saturday nights often would find them playing for a community event or a square dance with Irene and her sisters in tow. Like her dad, Irene had a natural ear for music and at a young age learned to accompany him.
Family get-togethers were not complete until Art picked up the fiddle and Irene sat down at the piano for a rousing song fest. A lifetime of Sunday mornings found her putting her talents to good use singing in the choir or playing the organ at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Benzonia. Family, faith and music provided the sustenance by which she lived her life.
Irene loved to sew. She was a gifted seamstress who never knew a pattern too complicated or a sewing problem too hard to solve. She designed much of her clothing and was never enjoying herself more than when she was on a hunt for just the right fabric or accessory.
Whether using her mind to solve a design challenge or a crossword puzzle, she had a passion for learning, and it was just such a passion that led her to become a teacher. After graduating from high school, she attended the County Normal School in Frankfort and then went on to get first a bachelor's degree from Central Michigan University and then a master's degree in education from Michigan State University.
She taught in the Frankfort/Elberta Schools for 32 years, retiring in 1985. Her teaching career was impressive. She was an advocate for children with special needs and served the district as their first special education teacher. The school's first work/study program came about through Irene's efforts. In 1979, she was recognized by her colleagues as an outstanding educator by being selected as Teacher of the Year.
Irene will be loved and missed by those who survive her; her daughter, Beverly, son-in-law, Bill Johnson; foster son, Walt Costigan and wife, Sandy; and her sister, Marjorie (Gary) Marvin. Also surviving her are her grandchildren, Natalie Johnson (Douglas) Henke, Katherine Johnson, Timothy (Tammy) Costigan, Mary Costigan Reed, and Melissa Costigan (Daniel) Wiege; and 10 great-grandchildren.
She was preceded in death in 2009 by her husband, Gene; her parents, Arthur and Flora Schlueter; and her sister, Dorothy Reed.
Funeral services will be conducted at 1 p.m. Tuesday, June 1, 2010, at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Benzonia, with Reverend Michael G. Belinsky Sr. officiating. Interment will take place in the Benzonia Township Cemetery in Benzonia. Visitation will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday, May 31, 2010, at the Bennett-Barz Funeral Home in Beulah.
The family wishes to thank the staff at the Homesteader for the wonderful care and friendship shown to Irene.
Those wishing to make a donation in honor and memory of Irene may send it to Our Savior Lutheran Church Elevator Fund.
The Bennett-Barz Funeral Home in Beulah is in charge of arrangements: www.bennett-barzfuneralhome.com.