Irene was born in Chicago to immigrant parents from Belarus and eventually, her parents and two sisters, Olga and Helen, moved to Elmwood Park on a street with other recently immigrated families. She would tell amusing childhood stories to her children that seemed oddly colorful in comparison to the suburban life of the 60s and 70s. A favorite story, which she was made to tell often, involved “bootlegging” during Prohibition. Her dad and other Russian immigrants knew how to make vodka, but had the children transport the still between families, in a blanket-covered wagon, to avoid suspicion. Like many immigrant families, finding work was additionally challenging during the Great Depression. And like many children from that period, the struggles faced as a child, under those circumstances, left a lifelong mark upon Irene. Wasting anything was deeply frowned upon after living on the edge of financial fear and despair.
As a good student, with a quick grasp on many topics, Irene graduated near the top of her high school class. Graduating during the height of WWII and living with her widowed father, she chose to find employment rather than pursue higher education. She worked at various jobs in the city, including the Federal Reserve, that involved bookkeeping roles--these positions were a good match for her numerical and math skills and proved useful years later in overseeing all finances for the first 15 years of Hutchison Tool Sales.
As a young professional woman in the 50s, Irene traveled extensively with friends to places like Miami, Niagara Falls, and even Cuba. This love of traveling and learning about other places in the world was passed down to her children. Her ability to speak Russian and to understand Polish particularly fascinated her daughter, who went on to study languages and find great joy in that ability.
She met a handsome Scotsman, Al, at a wedding in 1957; the two were married in August 1959 and enjoyed a three-week European honeymoon visiting Scotland and ending with a week’s stay in Paris. As a young married couple, they enjoyed throwing cocktail parties and continued to entertain well into their married life, mostly surrounding card playing and bridge.
After the birth of their first child, Cathy, Al and Irene made the decision to begin a business, Hutchison Tool Sales, where she held the title of Vice President/Treasurer. Although going out and developing customers was Al’s true calling, the family business could not have survived without her ability to run the actual business and finance side. Together, they made a harmonious team, one being more forward and optimistic while the other was more cautious about potential challenges and uncertainties.; they found the perfect balance that allowed a small family business to thrive for close to 60 years.
As a mother, born in The Greatest Generation, she didn’t coddle her children, but she did strive to provide opportunities for them that were not available to her, such as ice skating and golf lessons. As an avid Cubs’ fan, she taught the love of baseball to Cathy and Tom and took them to day games at Wrigley Field during the summer—which became such fond memories for the family. Cathy and Tom both played in summer softball and baseball leagues and of all the parents, she was the one that attended EVERY game. Mrs. Hutchison was a constant fixture in the stands, cheering on all the kids when they got up to bat and, by default, she often became the unofficial scorekeeper because her presence was reliable. Her knowledge of the rules of baseball led her son to becoming a summer umpire during his high-school years.
Like many women, Irene loved her children, but found an even sweeter spot in her heart for her grandchildren. She was an exceptionally proud grandmother of Jack, Hugh, and Maggie and relished in watching them grow to become delightful young adults. And, as the matriarch, she was blessed to have a daughter-in-law that cared for her like a true daughter and a son-in-law that made her smile and fixed a slew of little things around the house whenever he visited from North Carolina.
The hope for most is that each person leaves a life with at least one or two memorable traits – if a person had met Irene Hutchison at a social event, chances are likely that she shared one of her many jokes, and depending on the audience, some a little racier than others! Beyond the joke itself, Irene’s subsequent laugh accompanying the punch line made the audience laugh even more. For many, it was hard to decipher if the joke or the laugh was the funniest part. Her love of a good joke, with shared laughter, was an integral part of the family and ensured that her children and grandchildren developed a healthy sense of humor -- life without laughter would be quite a dull life.
Irene was preceded in death by her parents, Peter and Katherine, as well as sisters and brothers-in-law, Olga and Ed Krol; Helen and Fran Lawrence. She will now join her loving husband, Al, after his passing last May. She is survived by her daughter, Catherine Boyd (Kevin) and son, Thomas Hutchison (Megan) as well as three grandchildren, Jack, Hugh, and Maggie; and two step-grandsons, Alex Boyd (Allie) and Adam Boyd (Sarah). She is also survived by nephew, Ed Krol (Margaret) and nieces, Chris Chochola (Rick) and Carol Molek, and their extended families.
Visitation Monday, August 5th, 4-8p.m. at the Countryside Funeral Home & Crematory, 333 S. Roselle Rd., Roselle. Funeral Tuesday 10:00 a.m. Burial Elmwood Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to two charities that were dear to Irene: The Mercy Home for Boys & Girls (mercyhome.org) or St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary (www.svots.edu).
Info (630) 529-5751 or www.countrysidefuneralhomes.com