It was November 9th and two-year-old George was excited to celebrate two big events, his father, August Bachinski Jr.’s 30th birthday and the birth of his new baby sister, Irene. August and his wife Mary were living in the house behind his father, August Sr. and mother Helen. Helen’s father Matthew Birna lived next door and Mary’s mother Frances Kozminski was a block away. In fact both the Bachinski and the Kozminski clans lived no more than three blocks away from St. Hedwig’s Church. The first music Irene heard, on the day she was born, was her father, Gust, playing the piano and music became a big part of her life both at home and in church.
With her whole family nearby, she had many playmates and made many more at St. Hedwig’s school. Her life was filled with happiness and song and all the outdoor activities that children love to do until her dad died suddenly in 1933 just months after her grandmother Helen. With her dad gone, her mother Mary became the breadwinner and the family turned down a new path. With her mom working, Irene became more independent and more of a risk-taker than most women her age – the first to drive a car, ride a motorcycle, or fly in a plane. At Lincoln High School, Irene studied to be a Secretary, and she earned her letter in sports. She was asked to be one of two typists for the Quill, her senior yearbook, after scoring the highest typing speed in the class of ’38. She had many different jobs in her younger career, from elevator operator to Gimbels’ clerk, but her skills in the office environment were often more in demand. During WWII she even worked as a punch press operator until the machine malfunctioned and she lost the tip of her left index finger. The remaining finger often was a source of great amusement when she had more than one and a half drinks, but that’s another story. Her gift of song was the one spotlight of her many talents. She soloed with many choirs, including Holy Rosary’s Choir, and sang at many weddings.
After the breakup with her boyfriend during WWII, Irene’s friend, Gigi Stroika, wanted to introduce her to her uncle just home from the war. Irene thought, “Uncle!” and was pleasantly surprised by the tall, blued eyed, young man who came to call. Their first date was at the Oriental Bowling Lanes on Farwell Ave. The next Christmas, after months of dates, parties and strolling around the East Side of Milwaukee, Hank walked her home and put a little box in her hand. It contained a ring his sister, Evie, bought for him. Henry Cira (Hank) was not the mushy type so their engagement didn’t start with flowery words, just the handing over of a little box. It began a love affair that lasted 59 1/2 years. One of their first trips together, chaperoned of course, was to the little cottage on Clear Lake in Eagle River which turned out to be their sanctuary from the cares of the world. Only this sanctuary always had lots of visitors and children running around, swimming, fishing, hiking, singing, and having fun.
After their marriage on June 28, 1947, Hank started looking for a home. His sister, Evie, and husband Chester (Chet) Nowacki, were also looking, so together they purchased a duplex on 2841 N. Cramer. Irene’s mom, Mary, moved in with them and the next year, Carol arrived to take over the house. Often found climbing, she was once lost on the top of the player piano, until they followed the sound of the giggling. Carol was followed by sister Linda and brother Tom as the October birthday added up. Jim arrived a little later, the only July birthday, and the house was full. They rearranged walls, added another bedroom, and expanded the kitchen. Helping to bake cookies in 1958, Gramma “B” (as the family called Irene’s mom) suffered her first stroke. Followed by more serious strokes, she went to heaven and sent down Irene’s youngest daughter, Bette. Mom loved to think of Bette as her gift from her mom and it made her family complete. Hank’s business needed a secretary/bookkeeper and Irene’s skills fit the bill. So she handled the paperwork, cared for the house and the children, and looked forward to the Friday evening Sheepshead Club. Female friends and relatives gathered to share recipes, gossip, laughter, and play a few vicious hands of cards.
When Bette went to school full-time, Irene rejoined the outside workforce. She got a secretarial job at UWM and held many different positions there until she retired. Hank retired a few years before Irene did and was spending most of his time at the “cottage”. So when Irene joined him after her retirement, they spent three seasons of each year making friends, fishing, and taking care of the property. In Winter, they returned to Cramer St. and celebrated with their growing family. As children do, they all fell in love and started families of their own – soon eleven grandchildren filled their celebrations and their prayers.
Crocheting was a passion of Irene’s, as her retirement allowed her time to work and filled the quiet times. Second only to that were her prayers for her family. There are stacks of cards (all recycled from birthdays and Mother’s Days) on which she wrote, every week, names of her family and the novenas and rosaries she prayed for them. When age and illness deprived her of her beloved Hank and son Tom, she moved in with daughter, Carol, and her husband, Bob, who treated her like his own mother. She played cribbage, finished her crocheting, read Romance novels, and enjoyed fishing “Up North” at the cottage, but most of all she loved seeing her children, grandchildren, and recently, great-grandchildren grow up. When dementia started robbing her of her memories, the stories, photos, and hand-holding of her loving family were her strong-hold on life.
Irene served her family, friends, and everyone who knew her with love and a giving spirit. In turn God granted her the death she so richly deserved. At Christmastime we wish our family a traditional Polish blessing: “May you have health, wealth, happiness, and a golden crown in heaven.” On Dec. 29th, at 2 pm, Irene received her golden crown. Sitting comfortably in her cozy chair, wearing her jamies and her favorite sweatshirt, looking at the Christmas tree, Irene peacefully closed her eyes to this world and opened them up in heaven.
We all pray for that pain-free, peaceful death, surrounded by loved ones, after a long (91 year) life – and more than anyone we know, Irene deserved it. After a life of love and service, she is at peace, probably singing next to Hank and Tom, with the old Holy Rosary Choir and all those whose life she blessed.
Cira, Irene T.
Irene Teresa Cira (nee Bachinski) slipped peacefully into the arms of her Savior on Dec. 29, 2011 after 91 years of service and love. The daughter of August Bachinski and Mary Kozminski, she joins them and her loving husband of 59 years, Henry Cira and her son Thomas to celebrate their faith and heavenly rewards. She was beloved mother to Carol (Robert) Mayer, Linda (Larry) Reymann, James (Carol) Cira, and Bette (Brian) Kilcoyne. She was adored by grandchildren Rebecca (Russell) Alm, Jessica (Jason) Michels, Brian and Patrick Reymann, Isaac Cichocki, Philip and Christine Cira, and Colleen, Martin, Katherine, and Bridget Kilcoyne. She was loving Busha to great-grandchildren Cassandra, Ethan, Alexander and Isabella. Irene’s kind soul and service to friends and relatives will be remembered by all who knew her. Her kindness was in turn returned to her to make her final days more comfortable. She was lovingly cared for in Bob and Carol’s home with help from her workday companion, Cindy Price, her niece, and the gentle care of VITAS Hospice especially her nurse Dorothy. She was baptized in St. Hedwig’s Church and has been a life-long member of Holy Rosary.