Irene Julia Christianson, age 99, passed away on November 13, 2021, at Dove Healthcare in Rice Lake, WI and was welcomed into her “Great Reward,” as Irene would always say. She was preceded in death by her husband Clair “Chris”, her brother Harold “Sonny,” her parents, and her granddaughter, Kelsey Richmond.

Irene was born in St. Paul, Minnesota on January 29, 1922, to Selmer “Sam” and Katherine “Katie” (Arendt) Knutson. Irene’s one sibling, a brother Harold “Sonny,” passed away in the Solomon Islands in WW ll at the age of 18. Sonny was the first local man officially reported as killed in action in that war. Irene and her family moved to Rice Lake when she was 6 years old. She graduated from Rice Lake High School in 1939 where she met her late husband, Clair DeWayne Christianson, and they were united in marriage on July 3,1948, at Central Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, MN. Clair and Irene were married for 51 years until Clair passed away in 1999. They loved to get in the car on Sunday and say “pick a direction to drive,” never knowing where they would end up. Their days were filled with five children and their many friends who continually visited the house, and they all knew where to find the chocolate chip cookie can! As a mom, she loved nothing more! Clair and Irene built their bright yellow house on Augusta Street and lived there next door to their beloved friends Dorothy and Don Veit. These life-time friends even went so far as to acquire burial plots next to each other at Nora Cemetery in Rice Lake. Friends for eternity!

Irene was a long-time member of Bethany Lutheran Church where she taught Sunday school to 12th graders and is still fondly remembered by many as their favorite teacher. She also sang in the choir, served as Ladies’ Aid President, was a member of the Ruth Circle, and served on the church council. She spent many days traveling to surrounding towns to give her famous “Hat Speech,” which began with “MOM upside down is WOW!” Irene believed in laughter and treating others the way one would want to be treated.

Irene’s entire working career was spent in the insurance industry at the Sims, Johnson & Johnson, and Thompson-Nelson agencies. Between her desk being angled toward the lively Rice Lake business scene and Clair’s police scanner at home, they never missed a thing! She also spent many years as an election volunteer for Rice Lake’s 4th ward.

One of Irene’s greatest joys in her retirement was spending time (six days a week) with her fellow Norske Nook “Toast Ladies,” which included Sue, Pat, Maridale, Mary Ann, Ione, Sylvia, Gay, Audrey, Betty, Lorraine, Sandie, Lois, Ruth, Carol, Eileen, and Anne. These life-long friends all agreed that no matter what else happened during the day, they had already had a good day having met up with each other for conversation and a good laugh. Irene and a few of these ladies even made it onto a television commercial for the Nook! These ladies would often get together for a second time during the day. If asked what they would have to talk about a second time, her response was always, “a lot can happen in two hours!” Irene would also meet with friends at Nancy’s Northside on Sundays after church.

Irene is survived by her five children: Kris (Don) Matyska of Rice Lake, Kurt (Melody) Christianson of Eau Claire, Lynne (Ron) Schwab of Rice Lake, Gayle (Jay) Gilbertson of Amery, and Paul (Camille) Christianson of Chaska, MN; 11 grandchildren: Adam (Krista), Luke (Terri) and Matt (Kristy) Matyska; Naomi and Neil Christianson; Ryan (Deana) Schwab and Tasha (Dustin) Hetke; Cody (Anne) Gilbertson and Kasey (Chad) Yoder; Sahra (Seth) Eggert, and Sam Christianson; 13 great grandchildren: Avery, Aspen, Zachary and Maddux Matyska; Isaiah Hetke; Everett and Mabrie Gilbertson; Lexi, Cole and Bria Yoder; Oliver, Elliana and Eden Eggert; her sister-in-law Gaylene Christianson, many nephews, nieces, and cousins.

Irene loved people; she loved to laugh, and she lived her life with a positive attitude. A special thank you to all who cared for Irene at Dove Healthcare in Rice Lake where they enjoyed her outgoing and fun-loving personality, and where she still wore her large hoop earrings every day; they loved it. Also thank you to Irene’s Lifelines: Nancy, Sue, Carl and Phyllis. The family is so grateful to you.

Services will be held next summer, and an announcement will be made at that time. Appleyard’s Home for Funerals in Rice Lake is in charge of arrangements. Memorials are requested for the Bethany Lutheran Church Radio Fund. Irene always said it was the best way to reach people. Irene was loved and will truly be missed by so many!

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