After a life well-lived, Irys Evelyn Hedman, age 98, passed peacefully on September 12th, 2019, surrounded by family and loved ones. Irys was born in Bowman County (Gascoyne), North Dakota to John Milton and Anna May (Cannon) Downing and was the youngest of four children. “Toots” was her father’s nickname for her and he was asked to have her start school early since she already knew how to read and write at age five. She was thrilled to go and her love of learning never ceased.
Irys met Arnold (Arnie) at a church picnic when they were ages seven and nine. Their courtship spanned their school years and her first time speaking on a telephone was when she received a call from Arnie when she was sixteen. After her high school graduation in 1938, Irys boarded a train for Los Angeles where she put herself through business school and where Arnie just so happened to be stationed at Fort MacArthur. Irys made a career for herself in Los Angeles first in banking and then with a wholesale diamond broker where she developed her great business sense while also continuing her courtship with Arnie. They were married by the Army Chaplain on August 8th, 1943.
After the war, they returned to Arnie’s family farm in North Dakota briefly (one long winter!) and then made their way west. They sought farmland in Eastern Washington when the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project began to carry it’s first water and eventually acquired land and started farming in Block 15 north of Pasco in 1954. There they raised their six children and launched the first asparagus growing operation in the region and always took pride in being some of the original farmers in the Basin. In 1975, they sold this farm to break ground in the Mattawa area and built a new home in Othello where Irys was to then start her next business career when she opened I.Hedman Interiors.
Irys had a persistent passion for learning and neither her mind nor hands were ever idle. Her days most often started with the Wall Street Journal, always included several home and gardening projects, and hopefully a hand of bridge a couple times a week. She was an amazingly gifted seamstress who could create an exacting knock-off of a Valentino dress or perfectly reupholster any furniture. So many beautiful creations she’s left us with but she was most proud of her children and all that they have become on their own and the special gifts that they each bring to the world.
Irys was preceded in death much too early by her life’s love and partner, Arnold, in 1987. She is survived by her six children Mary Hedman, Mark (Virginia) Hedman, Kathleen (David) Taylor, Mitchell Hedman, Margaret (Matthew) Philip, and Jenny (Brett) Terrell; twelve grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
Please join her family and friends to celebrate her life The funeral mass will be held September 25th, 2019 at 11:00am at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Othello, Washington with burial at Bess Hampton Memorial Gardens. The memorial celebration will follow at 5:00pm at the Ironworks Cafe, Othello, Washington.
Donations can be made to Hospice of North Idaho: 2290 W. Prairie Ave., Coeur d’Alene, ID 83815 - www.hospiceofnorthidaho.org/donate/.