Ilene R. DeWolf

02/26/1923   —   07/19/2021

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  • Thom Houseman

    Ilene Onan, Wood, DeWolf’s Eulogy
    July 24, 2021
    Many years of zestful living amid an era of powerful, awesome and often dreadful history…If the goal in life is to live to be 100, I’d say our Ilene gets an A+ reaching age 98…

    What an era to live in and through ! ….a century of high impact…[Attached is a list of highlights of the last 100 years to illustrate]

    A complete lifetime lived in a special riverside community – Lowell-the ‘stuff’ of novels – It’s all about Middle America. I recall standing looking down on the main street Flat River spillway, hoping to see some fish. Then there was the grand sight of KING Milling’s huge red neon sign from Fred D. Kinyon’s house-high on the north hill; hearing the rumble of the mill and rattle of granary throughout the misty night. One never forgets the old time five and dime, the smell of peanuts and cashews roasting, and its offering of sugary candy-corn and orange marshmallow peanuts.

    Here in Lowell, little Venice, home of the Showboat, brother Dick fell for his high school’s homecoming queen, the beautiful Elaine (Houghton) who was the first Show Boat Queen. Even though it was forbidden and “worldly”, cousin Ron Carey once snuck me into a rollicking show boat performance.

    Early on, frisky and a bit of a rebel, Ilene chose to go beyond the boundaries of her parent’s strict codes of holiness living (long dress sleeves and hemlines, no jewelry- earrings or rings, no make-up, no worldly pleasures), it was carefully guarded living: [no TV & Movies]…she’d broken out into the wider world on her own spiritual quest.

    A daughter and a sister—Irene was part of that close Onan family pair: ‘Ozzie’ and ‘Woody’: Think of the days of their lives.

    Ilene Wood was an outstanding professional woman-Supervisor in Old Kent’s accounting department, Ilene performed years of high-value service – “Woody” took on some real accounting snarls and found the hidden errors—and she did it all with grace and humility. Flowers here today lay a tribute to her from FifthThird Bank Old Kent’s successor. She is still remembered by her co-workers from that time.

    Ilene was a beautiful, well-dressed, every bit charming; she married her stand-alone man of business, Carl Wood, a charmer and a natty dresser-some years older than she. Carl was a member of high standing in the Masonic Order. They enjoyed many formal occasions together.

    Ilene’s was maven of good and careful demeanor. She treasured her many beautiful possessions and keepsakes, and led a quest for near perfection—exhibited by her beautiful table settings.

    She inherited a rare skill as an accomplished cook–taking on after her mother Helen’s outstanding cooking skills. She had a sharp eye for housekeeping, proper etiquette and decorum. Once when my family “dropped in” at Ilene’s, little rambunctious Tommy was rebuffed by all her fine chairs and couches carefully covered by dust coverings!

    A delightful storyteller-she was a direct descendant of Capt. John Peet, Stratford, Connecticut on her father’s side. Captain Peet arrived to one of the earliest American Colonies aboard the Hopewell in the year 1635. For many years onward Capt. Peet rang the bell of Congregational Church as sexton-it was one of the few bells in the colonies at that time. My family and many others of the Lowell-based cousins attended Peet Family Reunions in the late 1970’s and early ‘80’s were inspired by Peet matron: Georgiana Peet-the long-term postmistress of Ithaca.

    A cousin to her near kin, and “Auntie Ilene” was there to greet many new members as they were born or married into the expanding Onan family

    “Auntie” was a supporter of this Nazarene Church (but not a member) where her parents, Sam and Hellen, her father’s sister Metta (Onan) and her husband Andrew Houseman [my grandparents] where charter members of this church, which recently celebrated its 100th birthday.

    Do you recall Ilene’s annual Easter hats which were legendary ! Some do.

    The Onans and the Housemans were also avid supporters of James Bailard’s Old Time Methodist Church in McCords, later located on Whitneyville Road. Ilene often harkened back to the Whitneyville era of her early years.

    Ilene was a vocalist-who sang many solos-most of them ‘gospel’ music, singing for her 90th birthday guests.

    Ilene had a strong sense of self and her place in the lives of others and the community. A witness to many disappointments and sufferings, Ilene was a help-meet and a caregiver: always, the giving person.

    We recall and reverence the tender, in-home care she gave both John O. and her brother Dick in their final days. Ilene was a woman of true compassion and sharing; both known and very private

    She was a celebrant with others in the various high points of their lives. Ilene was a lady who was that ‘special someone’ to many friends in her long life.

    Irene was a ‘September’ bride to John O. DeWolf – a retired widower, man of a quiet and august demeanor—having important accomplishments at Ford Motor Corp. The unusual way they first met in Oakwood Cemetery, where one day, they happened to be visiting and attending the graves of their lost mates-that’s so memorable. It was John O., who became her later-life husband: second love and companion in Ilene’s life. They wintered at Lakeland, FL. Both Ilene’s husbands were of the staid ‘old traditional mold”

    Ilene was a lady well-grounded in the soil of the earth and the bounty it would yield to careful tending: gardens and more gardens, annually. More and special indoor violets to bring along and share: She delighted with pride in her yard on Hunt Street and about her home was adorned by her treasured, beautiful African violets.

    A dog and cat fancier, over the years, she had a succession of many household pets as companions. You’ll be comforted to know her “Katie” cat lives on in comfort with Jamie and Eva in Alto.

    A patron of her many causes: Devoting thousands of days to endless letters and solicitations …until the enormity of reading and responding (sometimes to 4 dozen or more pieces a day) … nearly over came her…Ilene wanted to make a difference, to guide/assist in the future and assure her values and ideals would succeed

    Ilene was a ‘practical’ Christian with a real understanding of what it means to work out one’s own salvation with “fear and trembling.” She, like so many, had her troubling moments, would she fail to please her Lord ? As she was given to say, “I pray for my family, each and every day!” “I want to know they are ‘saved’ ”.

    As we lay her gently into the rocky earth of Lowell’s Flat River plain at Oakwood, we love and admire her, salute her for all she was and is to us. We commend her soul to Jesus, her Savior, and thank God for her life, well-lived, long-lived with elegance and grace…among us.

    To her life-long friends, her later-life helpers, I extend a heartfelt debt of gratitude: Esther Newell, Mary Lou and Chris Brown, Eva [her faithful in-home helper for nearly 30 years] and husband Jamie, also those neighbors who lent a hand. And no doubt many more…

    Listen: She’s singing out to us this moment…as in the old hymn, “I’ll meet you in the morning just inside the Eastern Gate over there…”

    She whispers to our inmost minds: “Just open your heart to God,” she’s pleading..”.He’ll come in and transform you…take a stone from my graveside and go with Jesus…”
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Now, may the words of our mouths and the meditations of our minds, on this day of remembrance, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, our strength and our Redeemer.

    Amen and Amen….

    Eulogy given by: Thom Houseman, Ilene’s second cousin

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