Irene Longwell

Obituary of Irene LaJean Longwell

Due to extenuating circumstances, the Irene Longwell family is holding a small memorial service at Fort Logan National Cemetery on June 24th.  We know that many Greeley friends and neighbors cared very much for Irene.  We ask that you take a moment on Friday, June 24, 2022, to whisper a prayer as we, her family, struggle through our final good-byes. And may all our collected memories of Irene’s many kindnesses help us to love God, love our neighbors, love ourselves and find the joy in life.  For that is how Irene Longwell lived.

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The Irene Longwell Family


Irene Lajean Longwell

Jan. 24, 1927 – Nov. 29, 2021


Irene was born near Long Island, Kansas to Emily (Reynolds) and Vernon Randall, but her family moved while she was still a young child, due to a doctor’s warning that if they didn’t move, the children would die of dust pneumonia due to the "Dust Bowl.”


Irene graduated from Cabool High School in Cabool, Missouri. She taught school one year and then joined her cousin who was working as a maid in Holdrege, Nebraska. There Irene met her husband and they eloped on November 30, 1946. Irene supported her husband through his 3 college degrees and they raised 3 children, (Wanda) Lorraine (Lorrie) Toni, Larry Longwell, and Lavonna Longwell. Irene worked, after her children were school age, in Gothenburg, Nebraska, as a nurse’s aide and later at the local five and dime store.


The family moved to Greeley, Colorado in 1962 after Irene’s husband was employed by Colorado State College (now UNC). Irene worked for the Greeley K-Mart store. For several years after they both retired, they operated an estate sale company, "The Longwell Couple”, helping many friends with sorting, pricing, and operating estate sales. Irene loved to play cards, especially bridge, but she knew more card games than anyone and she was good at all of them. She also managed to sew her daughter’s prom dresses while working full-time and supporting her husband through his attainment of his Ph.D. She loved to entertain and she always had beautiful vegetable gardens. She was the best cook in the world and nothing was better than Christmas dinner at Grandma’s house!


When she was at NCMC for end-of-life hospice care, she mumbled these words: "Come in, sit down, I’ll fix you something to eat.” That is the best description of the kind of woman she was. She was a friend to all and welcomed everyone into her home. She always kept busy – the last year of her life she embroidered a full-size quilt top, which was then hand-quilted by her sister, Laveda Douglas. She will be greatly missed by her daughters, her daughter-in-law, Susan (Dan) Gietzen; grandchildren: Kiffrey (Samara) Rasmussen, Corbu Stathes, Annie (John) Baranski, Whitney (David) Rinas, Kelsey (Sean) Knodel, and step-granddaughter, Maggie Gietzen. She was also dearly loved by her Great Grandchildren: Ellia, Avilly, Gehrig, Kale, Lennon, Nash, and Navy. Irene’s grandchildren wrote the following about their grandma:


To see her family grow was Irene’s greatest joy. She welcomed each new member—whether by birth or marriage—with a hug, bright smile, and a cross-stitch. She otherwise tended to her family’s growth with homecooked meals from her midwestern roots and unconditional love. Irene steadfastly gave her life so that others might live. Only in the most intimate of conversations with her would one learn that she’d forwent her dreams. She delighted in seeing her loved ones succeed, and she stood by them tirelessly as they walked their paths and traversed their seas. She lived her life in service to others. Irene was a sucker for family reunions, card games, and bargains. Her life was one full of family camper-trips to Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Missouri; card games on folding tables; and days spent strategically scanning thrift stores and estate sales across the rural Midwest for bargains and treasures. Irene’s confidence and strength were subtle but formidable. They emerged most often in service to others: when she raised her three kids while her husband pursued his dreams in academia; when she lost her son to cancer and held his wife and two young daughters tightly in her home and heart; when she experienced breast cancer and silently placed her prosthetic breast on the dinner table to make her scared family laugh; when she stood steadfastly by friends, family, and loved ones through sickness, disease, divorce, struggle, and death; Irene’s heart and presence were unshakeable. Irene hid her cleverness, quick wit, and generosity behind her quiet demeanor. It was easy to underestimate her, and she often surprised people with quips and stories. (Her story of a trip to a strip club with strippers dressed as brides offers one such example; her story of going to work early to brush kids’ hair, wash their faces, and give them breakfast because they lacked running water and food, another.) Irene never put herself on display, but she certainly deserved her own shelf. She contributed to people, families, and communities in ways small and large. She delighted and surprised those around her with acts of love and good deeds. Growing up on a farm during the Great Depression shaped much of who Irene was. It was hard to come by shoes, so she often had to wear a size too small for her feet. No wonder she passionately hated wearing shoes and often went barefoot. Otherwise, she loved eating carrots pulled straight from the dirt, saying grace before 3:00 supper on Sundays, and making something out of nothing. Her family grew more thankful and gracious because of her roots, and some of them love eating dirty veggies. Irene provided a home where people could rest their bodies, hearts, and souls. She left her loved ones with memories of safe cozy beds; warm sunshine slipping through sheer curtains; bacon sizzling on Sunday mornings; homemade cinnamon rolls on holidays; oranges in Christmas stockings; ham balls at family reunions; quirky gifts given with purpose and love; Rain Drops Keep Falling On My Head playing on the player piano; endless hours spent exploring "the acreage;” time on "grandma’s stool” spent baking, cooking, and tasting; licking beaters full of cake batter or buttery mashed potatoes; slowly-told stories with fantastic, surprising endings; goose chasings; and so much more. Irene, mom, grandma, great grandma, sister, friend, it was our honor to know you, love you, and be loved by you. Thank you for gifting us with the best of lives and teaching us to love richly and well. Not a day will pass that we won’t miss you.


Irene was preceded in death by her son, Larry; her husband, Bob; her brother, Lewis Randall and her sister, Wilma Ballard. She is survived by her sister, Laveda Douglas, sister-in-law, Gloria Randall, brother-in-law, Leo Longwell, aunt, Nancy Feikert and all the cousins from the Reynolds families, the Feikert families; many nieces and nephews; and close friends, the Mellott families.


Memorial services are being postponed allowing safer driving weather for all those who love her, from California, Minnesota, North Dakota, Florida, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Nebraska, and to keep all who love her safe from the COVID virus.


In honor of Irene’s deep love for her husband, memorial contributions may be made to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, or to the Alzheimer’s Association, Colorado Chapter, 455 N. Sherman Street, Suite 500, Denver, CO 80203.


Goodnight, Irene, Goodnight, Irene. We’ll see you in our dreams.

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