Irene E. Smith


Irene E. Smith, 103, of Tomah passed away Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, at Close to Home.  

Irene, the youngest of four siblings, was born at noon on July 12, 1917, to Frank and Mary (Webb) Wadephul on the family farm in rural Wilton.  She attended country grade school at nearby Central Point, graduated in 1935 from Tomah High School, and then completed her year of teacher’s training at Monroe County Normal.  Irene taught one year at Woodside School before she married Raymond Smith in Dubuque, Iowa, on July 3, 1937.  They moved into their new house in Tomah, where Irene would live for the next 83 years.  Ray preceded her in death in 1977.

After years of night school and summer school, Irene graduated with her bachelor’s degree from UW-La Crosse in 1973.  Between 1968 and 1982, Irene taught second grade at Wyeville, a job she truly loved.  In retirement, Irene traveled to several countries in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East as well as all around the United States.  Then in 1991 and for the next 24 years, Irene joined with United Methodist Corps of Relief: Volunteers in Mission, who for two-to three-week stints helped in areas recovering from hurricanes, floods, tornados and other disasters.  Her work camps took her to Maine, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, and many more places, including here in Wisconsin.  Irene completed 63 missions, all at her own expense, finishing at age 98.

Irene served her Tomah community as a hard-working volunteer in the United Methodist Women, the Monroe County Retired Teachers, the Lionesses organization, the Neighbor for Neighbor Food Pantry, and other good causes as they arose.  

Family and friends were very important to Irene.  She made it a point to stay in touch with relatives and to connect with friends near and far. Cards, letters, phone calls, and visits were her rewards.  Irene loved music and liked to dance, which she did at her 100th birthday party.  Among Irene’s favorites were daily devotions, flowers, birds, little children, family history, many bus trips, the Ranch, fishing excursions at Chesapeake Bay, Branson trips, especially Danny O’Donnell, annual WREA (retired teachers) conventions, the trailer at Castle Rock Lake, hat luncheons, parties, her daily and weekly newspapers, the Chinese Buffet and egg drop soup, Black Forest cake, and oysters.  Irene was a strong, independent woman who did things her way and led a rich, full life. 

Aunt Irene cherished her nieces and nephews and their families. She is survived by Richard (Valerie) Wadephul, Joyce Harris, Donna Vian, Judy Abendroth, Diane (Roy) Kirk, Frank (Doreen) Wadephul, Sylvia Ann (Matt) Felber, Jean Liefke, John (Adella) Wadephul, Lowell (Arlys) Zellmer and Stanley (Ruth) Zellmer.  She is further survived by nephews-in-law Walter Felt and Dale Roscovius, as well as many great- and great-great nieces and nephews, friends and other relatives. 

Irene was preceded in death by her parents; her husband, Ray; her brothers, Morton (Ida) and Clarence (Doris) Wadephul; her sister, Dorothy (Ed) Zellmer; and her nieces, Shirley Kuehl, Dawn Roscovius, and Jerelyn Zellmer Felt, along with many dear friends.

Services for and a celebration of Irene’s life will be held at a later date, tentatively set for next summer.  The Torkelson Funeral Home of Tomah is assisting the family with arrangements.  Online condolences are available at

The family wishes to thank Charles and Sara Beck, Diana Neal, Nona Smith, and all of her wonderful neighbors and friends who made it possible for Irene to remain in her home almost until the end. 

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