Studied to be a nun at Dominican Sisters
By David Fleet
Special to the Leader
From the coal mining towns of Pennsylvania to Southeastern Michigan, Irene Catherine Delasko century of life is a story of perseverance through hardships, strong faith and commitment to her husband and family of four.
Born March 21, 1923, Irene, a long-time Brandon Township resident will celebrate her 100th birthday with friends and family. She was born in rural Barnesboro, Pa. to Slovakian immigrants Catherine and Michael Majoris. The family lived in small coal mining towns before settling in Windber, Pa. where Irene grew up the youngest of eight children.
“It was terribly rough growing up,” recalled Irene. “Mom milked cows to put food on the table with all us kids. She worked hard to feed the family, baking all day long. It was tough for me growing up there. We were very poor.”
Joanne Sikarskie, is the oldest daughter of Irene and recalled a few stories of Irene’s early years.
“My grandfather was a coal miner while grandmother worked as a ‘landlady’ to young Czech miners in need of a place to live,” said Joanne. “Mom attended a Catholic ‘Slavic’ school, St. Cyril and Methodius, through the eighth grade. However, she did not attend high school, rather stayed home with her mother to help with borders, often washing their clothes on a wringer washing machine or scrub board.”
Irene met her husband Joseph (Joe) at a friend’s wedding where they were in the bridal party.
“Mom fell for his handsome looks,” said Joanne. “But it was his love of gospel/country music and the playing of the fiddle and guitar that got her smitten. Mom went to every music venue he was in, staring at her ‘star’ on the stage.”
They were married on Sept. 27, 1941. The couple had four children, Joanne, Ray, Rita and Ron who all adjusted to life as “coal miner’s” children.
“I remember my mom fixing dad’s lunch bucket and waiting for dad to return all dark and dusty,” recalled Joanne.
Joe retired from the coal mines and moved the family to Weirton, WV, where he worked in the steel mills for about one year until complications due to black lung disease halted his ability to continue.
About 1954 the family “migrated” to Oxford Township for Joanne to study to become a nun. When they arrived, Joe was offered the position of building/grounds superintendent of the Dominican Sisters Motherhouse on W. Drahner Road and the Lourdes Nursing Home located in Drayton Plains.
“The Sisters provided us a house to live in while Joe is working,” said Irene. “We lived there for many years before moving to Brandon Township.”
Irene worked as a salesclerk at Hudson’s at the Pontiac Mall.
“This was a job mom loved, for one of her passions was “shopping” in her younger days; she loved helping customers find the perfect sweater for the perfect price,” recalled Joanne. “Mom loved people, she loved striking up a conversation with strangers;and her love of “dressing up” made her feel right at home amidst all those aisles of clothing.”
“My husband often said, ‘you’re never home cooking you’re always shopping,” laughed Irene. “I was always shopping for my kids. I always worried about my kids.”
Joe died in 1999 after 58 years of marriage.
“I’ve lived 100 years and now 23 years without my honey,” said Irene. “It’s sad.”
Irene reflected on a century of life.
“My mind is like a 20-year-old,” she said. “But I have the body of a 100 year-old. I really don’t know how I made it all the way to 100, but my mother had a really good brain. She was wonderful, I must have taken after her.”
“No smoking, drinking and I never exercised,” she said. “When you have four kids growing up you’re always on the go. I even passed a driving test when I was in my 80s. My car was in the garage and I finally gave it up, I cried the day they took it.”
No other immediate family member has lived to 100 years old, she added.
“I’m active,” she said. “I’d play cards with my grandchildren and for many years I attended church every morning. I would lead the Rosary at Our Lady of the Lakes.”
Irene has four children,11 grandchildren, 20 great grandchildren and one great-great grandchild with two more on the way in July.