IN LOVING MEMORY
Mary Irene Ragan
Mary Irene Ragan, age 91, passed away peacefully on Thursday, May 7, 2020. She is survived by six children, eight grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. In the time of Covid-19, this was a sweet, simple death. She had a stroke on Wednesday, May 6th, told her nurse calmly, “I’m dying,” and then lost consciousness. She spent her final hours in the presence of loved ones, and died the next day.
Irene was a devoted mother to her six children and a great friend to many, welcoming all with her vivacious, radiant smile and long, warm hugs. Visiting with Irene was a real treat: she devoted her full attention to each visitor, making everyone feel like the most special person in the world. Even in her later years as her health declined, Irene formed deep and loving friendships with the nurses and aides in her assisted living and nursing care facilities.
Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Irene showed an extraordinary talent for music at a very early age. At the age of five, she played a Mozart sonata on the radio in Pittsburgh. Irene had to sit on a dictionary to reach the keys, and she was so small that her feet couldn’t reach the pedals! By the age of six, she was giving public concerts. As soon as she was old enough to take voice lessons, singing became her primary focus. Over time, the classical art song repertoire became her great passion.
While attending Elizabeth Seton High School in Pittsburgh, Irene received a scholarship for a summer program at The Julliard School in New York City. Irene fell in love with the Big Apple, returned after high school to live for a year, and remained smitten with the city for the rest of her life. During her early love affair with New York, she flourished in the vibrant, post-war music scene immersing herself in concerts of the great musicians who had landed there after fleeing oppressive regimes in Europe during World War II. She stayed up all hours of the day and night and was a much sought after date.
After graduation from high school, Irene attended the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. Soon after, she married and became a devoted wife and mother. But Irene always managed to continue her musical pursuits, keeping the house full of music for her family, teaching her kids to sing and play the piano, encouraging her children to learn other instruments, serving as choir director and organist at many churches, giving solo recitals in several cities as the family moved from state to state, and teaching many students to play the piano and sing.
Irene loved not only music, but also literature and visual art. She looked for movement and line and how it made her feel. Irene found extraordinary delight in the Abstract Expressionists and the experimental art of the 1980s. She frequented small concerts in Greenwich Village and often told a story about attending a fascinating concert where John Cage ate a carrot into a microphone. She loved learning. Even while Irene raised her children, she continued to take singing lessons. As a piano teacher, she undertook a course of study in pedagogy. Later in life, she earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Ramapo College in New Jersey. Irene never stopped expanding her horizons and consequently the aspirations of her children, students and friends. For that, we are all eternally grateful. Godspeed, Irene.
Virtual Celebration of Life
Tuesday, December 15
5:30 PM Pacific
Please join us for a celebration of Irene's life.
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Donations in Irene’s memory may be made to any of these charitable organizations: