Irene Bailey was a loyal friend, devoted wife, a doting mother, and a proud Chicago Public School teacher.
Born Irene Ollie Edwards on April 19, 1941 in Sparta, North Carolina, to John Luther Edwards, a farmer, and Ophra Ann Edwards, a homemaker, Irene was the first of their two daughters. As a young child Irene loved to jump rope and ride horses.
In her youth, Irene attended Cherry Lane Elementary School in Sparta and graduated in 1959from Lincoln Heights High School in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. It was at Lincoln Heights where Irene met Kenneth Lee Bailey, a Wilkes County native, and was forever smitten. After graduation, Irene went on to attend Winston Salem Teachers College as her dream was to become an educator; Kenneth moved to Chicago, Illinois in1960. The two communicated regularly, and the high school sweethearts married on June 7, 1962. Through this union, they had one daughter, Kenetta.
Settling on Chicago’s South Side with her new husband, Irene attended Arnette Chapel AME Church. Within a few months, she landed a job as an educator with the Chicago Public Schools. Irene spent the majority of her teaching career at Jacob A. Riis, an elementary school on Chicago’s West Side, where she taught a variety of primary grades and reading classes. Irene was loved by her students. She was passionate about educating African-American youth. She had high standards and expected the best from her students. Most special to Irene were the life-long friendships that she developed and nurtured with Chicago Public School teachers and staff. While at Riis, Irene earned a Master’s in Elementary Education from Roosevelt University, and she continued to take additional courses over the years to enhance her position in the school system. She moved from Chicago to Glenview, a northern suburb of the City, in 1980. Her dedication to educating Chicago’s youth continued as she went on to teach in the City for nearly 20 more years. Irene, with 39 years, nine months and two days of service to her credit, retired from the Chicago Board of Education in 2000. Thereafter, she was an active substitute teacher.
Socially, Irene loved to play card games, especially bid whist and bridge. For more than 20 years she belonged to a Sunday afternoon bridge club and enjoyed Saturday night bid whist games with friends and family. Irene loved to read. Magazines, celebrity cook books, and biographies were her favorites. Crossword puzzles, Scrabble and word search books kept her occupied. She liked to tap her feet to R&B music by the Temptations, Gladys Knight, and Ray Charles. And, yes, Irene loved to dine in restaurants.
Irene leaves to cherish her memory her husband, Kenneth, of 53 years; daughter Kenetta Bailey Hayes and her husband Lamonte; sister Eva Bryan Brandon and her husband Theodore; a host of nieces and nephews; other extended family and an abundance of friends.