Irene R. (Horton) Keegan, originally of Shrewsbury MA, passed away Monday, December 16, 2019 in Ft. Myers, FL after an unexpected 8-week battle with lung and heart complications.
Grandmother, mother, sister, daughter and loving and loyal friend, Irene was born in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts on December 31, 1941 to the late Ezra Harrison Horton and Hazel Cecilia (Goeckeler) Horton. She was preceded in death by her sister, Carol Ann Nilson in 1993.
Irene would have noted her finest accomplishment to be that of raising her three children to be good, loving humans & productive members of society: James T. Keegan (Jann Laiti) of Fairbanks, AK; Paula J. Boyles (Keith) of Frisco, TX; and Sharon M. Bothelo (Robert) of Allen, TX. Nothing however compared to her delight in sharing stories of her three grandchildren to any and all who would listen: Keegan Sawyer Bothelo (17), Morgan Olivia Boyles (13), and Samantha Kaitlin Bothelo (11). She lovingly racked up her frequent flyer miles to remain a constant in their lives. For a woman who thought her technological prowess was lacking, she could FaceTime like nobody’s business, even if the kids were often looking directly up her nostrils or watching the ceiling fan spin.
Irene was additionally proud of independently crafting a full rich life for herself, with the emphasis on “independently.”
Irene graduated from Shrewsbury High School in 1959, earned an AA in Early Childhood with Highest Honors from Quinsigamond Community College in 1978 and a BS in Elementary Education with a minor in Adolescent Psychology from Worcester State University in 1981. That minor may, or may not, have had something to do with the behaviors of her three children, but to be fair Sharon was only 11 at the time. Jim and Paula apparently were the impetus.
Irene was “fly by the seat of her pants” with a heavy dose of practical. She excelled at clipping coupons, and buying things on sale. She found balance. She worked hard and was a successful owner of her own preschool and, later, a pragmatic/committed residential realtor and savvy real estate investor; but she enjoyed traveling, and living life to the fullest, too. She epitomized strong, vibrant, genuine and happy. She smiled a million dollar smile, even though for years she lamented it was crooked. She loved a good joke — telling it or hearing it. It may well have been off-color.
Irene had an understated beauty. She was a crazy-colorful dresser, a merry traveler, a late-in-life quilter and consummate seamstress. She knitted and crocheted beautifully. She learned how to sail a boat, shoot a gun, be a bartender… all just for fun. She laughingly bragged that she drove her golf cart faster than most men in her neighborhood. She was a mean sudoku solver and loved to play solitaire. She took pride in having a well-stocked toolbox. She gifted her children with tools and it pleased her to have carried for years a pared-down set in her trunk, contained in her dad’s old bowling shoe bag.
She reminded her children, through her actions, to find the good in everyone… that was a big one. She quietly planted what seemed to be ordinary seeds wherever she went, often not knowing the gifts that would later come to grow from them so magnificently.
She had a lifelong love affair with cookies and chocolate, hot tea, a good drink, or a cheap glass of wine. She had a soft spot for coffee ice cream; rumor has it it dated back to the 50s when a commercial ice cream truck dropped a large container onto the road she and her dad were traveling, which found its way to their “ice box.”
Irene looked forward to daily calls with her girls while they commuted to and from work. It pleasantly passed their time and miles and kept everyone up-to-date on all salient, mundane and/or frivolous topics.
Unlike her sister Carol, a phenomenal cook, Irene’s cooking skills were not her greatest strength, but it didn’t stop her from happily entertaining. She loved hosting friends from out of town and recognized the importance of the company she kept and conversation that was had.
When she traveled to Texas (most notably for Christmas and her shared New Year’s Eve birthday with Paula) she loved spending time in the kitchen, not necessarily as a participant but as an observer. She was lovingly named “speed bump” by her son-in-law Keith, as she was always in the way; but smiling and happy to be underfoot.
Irene’s final gift to her children and grands came just six months ago with a family trip to Alaska that she and her son, Jim, planned pretty spectacularly. All 10 family members enjoyed a bountiful mix of excursions, the beauty of nature and their surroundings and the ultimate gift of time with her and each other. It was nothing short of awesome.
In addition to her children and grandchildren, Irene is survived by her nephews Robert “Rob” Nilson (Stacey) of Annapolis, MD and Frank “Rusty” Nilson, Jr. of Worcester, MA; her extended family of loving brothers- and sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews; her “bonus” grandchildren Stacy Humphreys (KJ) of Stephenson, VA and Todd Hennick (Melissa Huston) of Pasco WA; and countless friends scattered far and wide. Among her close friends, Irene counted many as family: Eddie & Bev, Bob & Carrie, Olga & Jerry, Grace, Ann, Sue, Linda, Patricia & JB.
As Irene was ever-practical, we know she would agree with our decision to delay services in both Ft. Myers, FL and Shrewsbury, MA to a later date when those important to Irene will be able to plan and come together to celebrate her love, light, life and legacy.
In lieu of flowers or a formal donation to a particular organization, please gift a friend, a neighbor, a coworker or a complete stranger with some tiny, unexpected and unsolicited act of kindness in Irene’s memory. She would love that.