Beloved mother, grandmother, sister, friend Irene R. Johnson died at the age of 93 on November 27 from the coronavirus. Her faith, family, and friends sustained her throughout her life. She spread love and joy without limit wherever she went.
She was born February 3, 1927, the eleventh child and eighth daughter of 13 children of John and Mary Wilkinson of the Daisy Farm in North Stonington, Connecticut. She loved telling stories of her enchanted, yet hardworking, childhood on the farm. She especially loved sharing how she would sneak away, as soon as her chores were done, to read at the top of the hill, out of sight of the house. She remained an avid reader throughout her life. Irene loved school, especially her years at the Shunock School, a one room schoolhouse in walking distance from the farm. She thought her teacher, Mrs. Eckleston, was the best teacher ever. As she grew older, she joined the milk route, delivering milk throughout the Westerly-Pawcatuck area. She loved spending that time with her brother Carroll and her sister Elizabeth (Lib). Her only fear was that she would have to talk to a customer.
In 1945 at a square dance at the Stonington Grange, she met the love of her life Clifford David Johnson, Jr. (Dave). They were married a mere five months later on May 3, 1946. They worked together as a team to build a life together. She supported Dave’s desire to own his own business as a tool and die maker by polishing cavities for his injection mold dies to a mirror shine at the kitchen table while daughters Mary Elizabeth (Mame) and Martha were at school, and Lizanne played with the water in the sink. Dave always said with pride that she was the best polisher he ever had. As the business succeeded, they opened their home to missionaries who needed a place to stay. The warm and loving atmosphere she created made everyone who stayed want to return. Her girls always knew that they could bring anyone home to stay for a night or for a year. There was always room at the table.
When the teenagers at church needed a place to meet, Dave and Irene built an addition on their home and started the Thursday night Bible Study. No one ever left hungry, spiritually or physically. Irene was “Ma” and later “Grandma” to scores of teenagers for many years. When the youth group wanted to sponsor a concert given by the Bethel Community Chorale from Harlem, NY, in the early 1970s, she housed six young men for the weekend. One of those young men, Richard Allen Farmer, became unofficially adopted and is the son she always wanted. After Dave died in 1989, Irene continued to welcome people into her home.
In recent years as Irene’s memory failed, stories of the past remained vivid. She always recognized her loved ones, in spite of her worries that she would forget. Irene was a shining example of true Christian love and a life well-lived.
She is deeply missed by her three daughters, Mame Beaudoin of Punta Gorda, Florida, Martha Beaudoin (James) of Chester, Connecticut, and Lizanne (Daniel Marr) of Pawcatuck, Connecticut, and son Richard Allen Farmer (Rosemary) of Stone Mountain, Georgia; her grandchildren, Matthew Beaudoin (Jill), Brenda Kim (Steven), Amanda Collins, Adam Beaudoin (Shauna), David Beaudoin(Sarah), Heather el Bacha, Nicole O'Harra (John Jr.) and Timothy Farmer; her great grandchildren, Morgan Dorsey, Christa Clarke, Cody Kim, Caroline Collins, and Sam Beaudoin; her two remaining sisters, Gertrude Welles, and Mary Barber; and too many beloved nieces, nephews, great nieces, and great nephews to count. She was the kind of mother, aunt, grandmother, great grandmother every child wants. She was never too old to play chase, wiffle ball, hide and seek, or read a story. The family has a lifetime of memories to cherish and her example to follow as a woman of faith with a heart full of love and acceptance along with a great sense of humor. The family revels in the knowledge that she is reunited with her beloved husband, parents, siblings, and others who went ahead of her to God’s kingdom. She has left a hole in many lives which she expects us to fill with love, faith, and service to others.
There will be a private graveside service. A celebration of her life will occur during the summer of 2021. In lieu of flowers, please make a donation in her name to the Wheeler Library, 101 Main St, P.O. Box 217, North Stonington, CT 06359.
The family would like to extend their heartfelt gratitude to the many people who cared for our mom in recent months. The staff at Atria Crossroads Place gave Mom her last hurrah. She was so happy and comfortable there. The staff at the Yale New Haven Hospitals at Westerly and Lawrence and Memorial (New London) showed care and concern both for our mom and us without comparison. The people of the ambulance services knew just how to reassure and comfort a frightened and hurt elderly woman. We can never thank you all enough. Please do our health care workers a favor in these difficult times. Stay home. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Stay six feet apart. May you keep your family members safe and alive to celebrate and love.
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