With much faith, Irene Hill was first and foremost devoted to her Catholic faith that helped sustain her throughout her life. A loving wife and mother, Irene was the strength and driving force behind her beloved husband and sons. With her blended flair of optimism and love, she made a wonderful home for them filled with many memories to be cherished for years to come. She will be deeply missed.
The year was 1924 and Calvin Coolidge was the 30th President of the United States. The end of World War I brought much industry to the nation and the economy soared. In the bustling city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Andrew and Frances (Bolcerek) Olkiewicz, a young Polish couple with much hope and promise for the future, were exceptionally blessed when they welcomed the birth of a little girl they lovingly named Irene on June 9, 1924. The first of four children in her family, Irene grew up with her two brothers and sister in Cudahy, Wisconsin, a close knit community rich with Polish roots.
A devout Catholic family, Irene’s early years of education took place at the Holy Family Catholic Grade School. So common back then, Irene’s school day consisted of being taught half the day in Polish and the remaining half of the day in English. She often shared memories with her family of how as a young girl she ran home from school everyday because she disliked her stern teacher. Irene went on to attend Cudahy High School where she excelled in forensics and enjoyed swimming. She was also quite involved in theater while in high school and continued her thespian interests afterward with the Cudahy Theater Group. It was a proud day for Irene and her family when she graduated as Salutatorian of her graduation class.
While many young women during this time had their sights set on marriage and starting a family, Irene had other aspirations in mind. In the midst of World War II, Irene left her close community in Wisconsin and went on to serve her country in the U.S. Coast Guard. Stationed in Long Beach, California, her service was very important to her and was something she always remained quite proud of. While in the service, Irene wrote an essay about her Coast Guard Group and her written memoir of this time in her life continues to be treasured by her family. Her brother, Arthur, much younger than Irene, often recalled about the time his sister returned from the service. Irene donned his Boy Scout uniform and saluted him. Upon her discharge from the Coast Guard, Irene returned home to Wisconsin. Working as a secretary for the Allen Bradley Company in Milwaukee, Irene soon advanced to executive secretary. She later went on to achieve the position of executive secretary to the president, Mr. Bradley. Irene truly enjoyed her work there and often regretted leaving the company.
Fate had other things in store for Irene and in 1965 she was introduced to a gentleman through a mutual friend. A dashing young man, his name was John P. Hill and upon their meeting, Irene knew immediately in the depths of her heart that John was the one for her. A few short months after their first date, John asked Irene for her hand in marriage. They were blessed as husband and wife before family and friends at Holy Family Catholic Church in her hometown of Cudahy, Wisconsin on April 24, 1965. After settling into married life in Cudahy, the couple was blessed in 1968 with the arrival of their first son, John, Jr. Several years later in 1971, Andrew completed their family.
Even though Irene enjoyed her work outside the home, she changed her career to lovingly devote herself to her family and raising her sons, and had her hands full. Active at church and the school at Holy Family, her faith was extremely important to her. Irene was a wonderful example of faith and service and demonstrated this to her sons. Irene’s husband, John, Sr. worked as a certified public accountant and as chief executive officer for the Wisconsin Credit Union League. Although his work found him traveling quite frequently, he took Irene and the boys along on several trips when he could. They especially liked the many trips they made to several Wisconsin resorts where memorable times were shared.
Irene was one to encourage and made you feel good about yourself, even if you didn’t. Maybe it was through her Coast Guard training, but Irene was a perfectionist. In a positive way, Irene set the bar high for her sons, and through love and encouragement, she expected them to live up to it. Her forensics background allowed Irene to teach her sons the proper use of language, and how to effectively choose correct words to get a point across. This early instruction from their mother proved to be valuable as they came to appreciate it later in life. With three men in her home who could tend to be pessimistic at times, Irene’s positive nature offered a balance that was good for all of them.
When it came to cooking, Irene’s son John often described it as works of genius! He always said her cooking was the driving force that kept him living at home until his late twenties. Irene felt that compared to her mother‘s wonderful cooking, she was a butcher! Her family begged to differ as the recipient of many of her delicious meals. Much to the delight of her children, Irene not only tolerated pets in her home but had a genuine love for them, especially cats. Although the boys job was to clean the fish tank each week, Irene herself performed a majority of the tasks when it came to the family pets. She always made sure to ask the produce man at the grocery store for scraps of lettuce for their beloved guinea pig. An avid reader, Irene enjoyed reading a good book in her free time.
With great love and devotion to her family, Irene was the strong force that held them together when her son Andrew died unexpectedly in 1998 at the age of 27. During this very difficult time, her husband was especially devastated, the opposite of what her son John, Jr. expected at such a time in their lives. With great respect, he admired his mother for her strength during this time and the resilience for which she held everyone together. When John, Jr. moved out of the house and with John now retired, they had much time on their hands. They enjoyed traveling within the U.S., and traveled internationally as well. Irene wrote of her travels entitled, “On A European Whirl”. In time they took on part-time jobs conducting telephone surveys for a telemarketing company.
As her husband began developing health issues, he went on to live at the Willow Crest Nursing Home in South Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Irene herself began suffering from orthostatic hypotension, a form of vertigo that caused her to feel dizzy and lightheaded. Her condition precipitated a need for assistance, so she decided to move to Franciscan Courts, an assisted living facility in South Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Sadly, her husband John died on August 16, 2007. With the need of additional help, she continued to move to other areas within the facility to the Franciscan Gardens and then to the Francis House where she sadly died on Saturday, January 2, 2010 at the age of 85.
Most important to Irene Hill was her faith and family. Her strong devotion to her Catholic faith set an example that will be long remembered. She will be sadly missed in the hearts of those she leaves behind.
Beloved wife of the late John P. Hill, Sr. and devoted mother to the late Andrew Hill. Cherished mother of John, Jr. (Tracy) Hill. Dear sister of Arthur (Arlene) Olen, Dorothy Olkiewicz and the late Andrew Olkiewicz. Further survived by other relatives and friends. Visitation with her family will take place Thursday, January 7, 2010 at the Franciscan Gardens Chapel, 1000 Williams Avenue, South Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53172 from 10:00 AM until time of the Funeral Mass at 11:00 AM. Private interment at Holy Sepulcher Cemetery, Cudahy, WI. The family wishes to extend their deepest gratitude to the staffs of VITAS Innovative Care and the Francis House for their loving, compassionate care. Please visit suminskilifestorynet.com to leave a favorite memory of Irene or to sign her online guest book.