Irene Edith Stein was born on March 4, 1910, in LaPlata, Missouri, the daughter of Paul William Kroggel, a blacksmith, and Eda Louise Kroggel (nee Fennel). Of German ancestry, she had one older brother, Raymond. The family moved to Moberly, Missouri where her father became part of the Fennel Auto Works.
Irene attended Moberly High School, Moberly Junior College, and the University of Missouri in Columbia for two summer sessions after Junior College. After college she taught grade school for several years. On January 1, 1934, Irene married Frederick Carl Stein who was the pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Chillicothe, Missouri. Her husband also served congregations in Brookfield and Trenton, Missouri. Irene, who was gifted musically, served as the organist at various times in these congregations.
Three sons were born in Chillicothe: Jonathan (1935), David (1936), and Stephen (1940). When Fred entered the military during the Second World War, Irene moved with her three boys to St. Louis where she maintained the family while he served in the Azore Islands. After the war, when Fred reentered civilian life and became the pastor of Berea Lutheran Church in Riverview Gardens, a suburb of St. Louis, the family moved again. A fourth son, Matthew (1949), was born in St. Louis.
Her husband retained his reserve status in the Air Force, and as a result was called to service during the Korean War and served in the Pacific theater. Irene moved with the boys to Concordia, Missouri. When he returned stateside, the family moved to Austin, Texas, where he was a chaplain at Bergstrom Air Force base. When her husband again exited the military in 1959, the Irene moved the family to St. Joseph, Missouri, where Fred became the minister of St. Peter Lutheran Church. In 1961 Irene and Fred moved to Evansville, Indiana, where he assumed responsibility for two Lutheran congregations, Good Shepherd and Grace Lutheran Churches. In 1964, one last professional move occurred; Irene and Fred moved to Detroit, Michigan where he became pastor of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church until their retirement in 1970. Upon retirement Irene and Fred moved to St. Clair, Michigan.
During all these years Irene bore the brunt of domestic arrangements associated with all of these prior moves. She was a gifted artist, musician, and a tireless seamstress who sewed clothing for her boys and for her grandchildren. Throughout her years as the wife of a Lutheran minister, Irene was very active in all of the congregations, working in both the musical and educational side of parish activities. She was an organist, choir director, Sunday School teacher, and organizer of women’s activities. In effect, she was the right hand of her husband, reaching out especially to the women and children of the congregations who valued highly her contributions.
Several years after the death of her husband in 1994, Irene moved to a retirement center in St. Louis. Her son Jonathan was a Lutheran pastor in St. Louis at that time. In 2004 she was moved to an assisted living facility in Lawrence, Kansas, to be near her son Matthew and his family. She died there on November 5, 2011 on the birthday of her husband and the wedding day of her youngest grandchild.
Irene is survived by her four sons and their wives, thirteen grandchildren, nineteen great-grand children, and five great-great grandchildren. Irene will be fondly remembered and long celebrated for her dedication to the Lord, to the church, and to her family.
Her visitation will be at 11:00 am on Monday, November 14, 2011, at Immanuel Lutheran Church in St. Clair, Michigan, followed by the funeral services to celebrate her 101 years at 1:00 pm at Immanuel. The family requests no personal memorials; any memorials or remembrances should be directed to the benefit and need of their home congregations, as Irene and Fred would have requested.