Irene H. Freel, the daughter of Franklin and Ione (Sandison) Brady, was born in Onaway February 3, 1926. She graduated from Onaway High School in 1943 and married Jay B. Freel the following year October 28 at the Millersburg Methodist Church. Jay and Irene made their home in Millersburg where they raised their family and were blessed with 67 years of marriage before Jay passed away in 2011.
Most important in Irene’s life were her garden, her family and her faith in God. Avid gardeners, Irene and Jay worked together to plant an enormous garden each summer. An expert with a hoe, weeds didn’t have a chance to grow in Irene’s garden.
The Freel’s garden was so impressive; Irene and Jay received an award from TV 7 & 4 for the Best Garden in Northern Michigan. Each August, she would spend hours canning hundreds of quarts of tomatoes and other vegetables to fill her pantry shelves.
A fabulous cook, Irene didn’t use recipe books to create delicious food, but just mixed ingredients together and tasted to decide what else her recipe might need. Besides being an expert gardener and a wonderful cook, Irene was the world’s greatest Scrabble player. She was sharp as a tack and strategized as she placed every letter tile on the board.
A devoted wife, a loving mother, and an awesome grandmother to her large and ever-growing brood of grandchildren, Irene cherished her family. An excellent homemaker, she worked hard cooking, canning, sewing and doing the household chores.
She made a warm and nurturing home for her family and taught them to love and put their trust in God. Irene’s heart was full when her family gathered together and she was proud of all their accomplishments. She somehow never forgot a birthday and everyone looked forward to the pie they would get from Irene on their special day.
Apple, lemon meringue, raisin, – everyone had their own special flavor made with love from Irene. Selfless and compassionate, Irene was a wonderful caregiver to anyone who was experiencing sickness or pain. With her gentle spirit and loving heart, Irene was truly an angel.
Close to God, Irene led a good Christian life. She prayed often, did not judge, and was patient, kind and caring. One of Irene’s favorite pastimes was sitting in the warm sunshine reading her Bible. She was a devoted member of North Country Baptist Church in Millersburg. Content and happy with her life, Irene always said she wouldn’t change a thing. Blessed with much love and happiness, Irene had no regrets. On Tuesday April 16, 2019, Irene Freel, died at home with her family gathered at her bedside.
She will be sadly missed by her daughter, Torry (Tim) Horrocks of Onaway; sons, Dick (Sue) of Cedarville, Jerry (Wendy) of Millersburg and Bryan (Nicki) of Onaway; a son-in-law, Gary (Carolyn) Zampich of Millersburg; as well as her 15 grandchildren; 34 great-grandchildren; and five great-great-grandchildren. Irene was preceded in death by her husband; a daughter, Faith Zampich; two brothers, Kenneth Lietaert and John Lietaert; and two sisters, Ruth Brasseur and June Hladik.
Visitation was Friday, April 19, at the Chagnon Funeral Home. Irene’s funeral was from North Country Baptist Church Saturday, April 20. The Rev. James Brabson officiated. A graveside service will follow at Riverside Cemetery. Those planning an expression of sympathy please consider a donation in memory of Irene to North Country Baptist Church.