Irene Mary (nee Cywinski) Mucha, age 97, peacefully passed away Thursday, August 30, 2018 in her sleep at the McGregor Home Assisted Living Community, in East Cleveland, Ohio. Her longevity and life experiences made her a natural historian and time capsule of knowledge.
She was born at home at College and Professor Avenues in Cleveland where the Treehouse Irish Pub is currently located across from St. John Cantius Catholic Church.
Having been born in 1921 had its advantages; she noted that Tremont is where Cleveland’s City College was to be built as reflected by the names of the streets; Literary, Professor, College and Starkweather.
As a child, she lived in the East 84th and Kosciusko neighborhood where she witnessed Elliot Ness and his Cleveland “Untouchables” bust a neighborhood wedding reception during Prohibition. During this experience she saw men lying prone, leaning their chins over the curb trying to drink the discarded alcohol as it flowed toward sewer grates in the streets.
Since her father was a baker, he had access to large amounts of sugar that could be used for the fermentation process in making spirits. One day, Irene showed up at home carrying a brown paper bag to which her mother retorted, “Oh no, Joe!” Her father responded that “No one would stop a little girl”. Irene was a bootleg runner!
Another barter opportunity was during the Depression with the Sisters of Notre Dame: The terms were the provision of bread in exchange for the education of 3 girls; Irene and her 2 younger sisters.
At 16 years of age, in 1937, with her parents’ permission, she began formation into religious life with the Sisters of Notre Dame. The Notre Dame Building on Ansel Road was familiarly known as “the castle” with its gothic architecture; http://www.ndcl.org/WindowImages/ansel7.jpg. It later was converted to apartments for handicapped individuals.
The name Sister Mary Electa would be given and final vows would be taken eventually.
While in formation, she taught 4th and 5th graders in California.
There, the convent was used with filming Gone with the Wind and the scene where Shirley Temple danced down a staircase with Bo Jangles.
She returned to Cleveland and studied at the Sisters of St. Vincent Charity Hospital’s nursing program with her sister, Toni.
During her training, she worked with Sister Ignatia who has been deemed a foundress and pioneer in the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Step Program. Sr. Ignatia recognized the need for a “Higher Power” to be included in the recovery process. Later, the Sisters of Charity built Rosary Hall where alcohol addiction treatment was offered and continues to today.
The year when Irene sat for her nursing board exams, she scored the highest in the state.
In 1946, she advanced to nurse anesthetist training at St. Mary’s Hospital in Detroit, Michigan.
When persons had surgeries, they were not only sedated but were required to be in a paralyzed state. The chemicals used to do this were snake venom and/or a plant serum from Curare (Coo-rar-ee). She administered drops over a mesh screen held over patients’ faces which resulted in arthritis of her fingers from staying in fixed positons for hours.
Irene sought dispensation from religious life after 11 years. She rarely shared her prior vocation with anyone to avoid awkwardness and discomfort. Often, those who left religious life would not only lose their vocation but also their faith. Irene, however, kept both.
After returning to her mother’s home, she and her sisters enjoyed leisure activities with the Catholic Adult Group. Here she would make lifelong friends and meet a man, Benedict J. Mucha, who would give her another name change!
After 6 years of marriage,their son, Paul was born.
Four years later, a daughter would be born. In accordance with Irene’s bargain with the Blessed Virgin and St. Ann, her daughter was given the name Mary Ann.
By 1964, Ben and Irene had completed their idyllic family with the one boy and one girl. They and their children were living in a home in Cleveland Heights that was across the street from her mother and sisters on Middleton Road.
The mortgage was paid off and it was time to hit the road in a station wagon, with peanut butter and jelly, a Coleman cooler full of cold water and Fizzies Drink Tablets! The first trip was to California for Disneyland. The mortgage payments had been diverted to a vacation fund that would enable the family to visit 48 of the 50 continental states and all the provinces of Canada bordering the US. Later with adult children, the family would travel to Spain. And again after Ben passed away, Irene with her adult children took an Alaskan cruise with grandchildren and extended family in tow!
These trips provided a priceless exposure to culture, history, vistas and how to survive three weeks in a car as a family!
As a couple, Ben and Irene took other cruises, visited Hawaii and Alaska to complete visiting all 50 US states, and onward to Poland, and France, for the 50th Anniversary of the military invasion at Normandy.
At 50 years of age, Irene sought and received her driver’s license.
Both as a vocation and as a volunteer, Irene focused her efforts on babies and children.
She worked 3rd shift in the “preemie” nursery with babies born under 40 weeks of gestation, at St. Anne’s Maternity Hospital whose building was sold to Kaiser Health System and then for the Cleveland Catholic Diocese’s DePaul Home on Woodland Avenue near Cuyahoga Community College’s Advanced Technologies Center. Previously, the DePaul Home was a refuge for educating and preparing unwed teenage mothers and for adoptions.
After retirement, she tutored Cleveland Heights elementary school children in reading and volunteered with the babies at Health Hill Children’s Hospital which is now the Cleveland Clinic Foundation’s Children’s Hospital.
Irene also attended and supported Veteran and Ex-POW activities with Ben. One activity was seeking donations for the veterans in exchange for red poppies.
At 82 years old, Irene had expressed no fear of death. While Ben would pass on the following year, Irene would continue to attend mass daily and participate in weekly book discussions at the Mayfield Regional Library.
Irene would survive another 15 years despite a closed head injury that would significantly impact her lifestyle. After the closed head injury, Irene required the use of a walker, was no longer able to drive, and needed assistance with day to day activities. An assisted living community fit her needs; stimulate the intellect, offer socialization and kept her close to family and friends.
Shortly after Irene left the Notre Dame Sisters in 1950, Sister Mary Loyola SND who preceded her in death wrote:
“No matter what the future holds for you, that high place which the good God destined for you in Heaven will be waiting for you so, keep the faith, give yourself in charity to others and continue along life’s way with the courage that characterized you as a Sister of Notre Dame.”
No doubt all who knew her saw that she had kept her faith, given of herself in charity and fought courageously as needed. Her calm presence and ability to listen without judgment made her approachable. Her compassion and dutifulness made her a role model. She encouraged her children to offer up to God the insults and assaults they experienced.
Irene means Peace in Greek so…May Irene be with you…in spirit, example and God’s love!
Irene Mary (nee Cywinski) Mucha, was the:
Beloved wife of Benedict J Mucha who preceded her in death.
Loving mother of Paul B. (wife Michelle) of Cleveland Heights and Mary Ann of Beachwood;
Cherished grandmother of Clarisse Gates (Orlando, FL), Nate and Sean;
Dearest sister to the late Toni Cywinski and Terry Hartman who preceded her in death;
Treasured sister in law to the late Jim Hartman, Stanley, Edward and Bernard who all preceded her in death;
Esteemed aunt of Karen Beyer (Joyce Connor), Robert (Bobbie) Hartman, the late Jo Ann (Mark) Keleshian, Linda (Lenny) Brooker, Pam (Phil) Zivich, and David (Debbie) Mucha;
Valued great aunt and great, great aunt to many.
Previous known as Sister Mary Electa of the Sisters of Notre Dame; (1937-1949).
Family suggests contributions be made to the charity of your choice.
Mass of Christian burial, Monday, September 10, 2018 at 10:00 AM at The Church of the Gesu: Marian Chapel 2470 Miramar Boulevard, University Heights.
Interment at All Souls Cemetery: Section 30, Lot 1450-1.
Family will receive friends to pay tribute to and celebrate the life of Irene at the SCHULTE AND MAHON-MURPHY FUNERAL HOME, 5252 MAYFIELD RD., LYNDHURST (BETWEEN RICHMOND AND BRAINARD), SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 2018 FROM 3-7 P.M.
Both of our funeral home locations offer complete services for traditional funerals, funerals followed by cremation, graveside services, shipping arrangements and direct cremations with memorial services.
All of our funeral home locations offer complete services for traditional funerals, funerals followed by cremation, graveside services, shipping arrangements and direct cremations with memorial services.
95 South Franklin Street
Chagrin Falls, OH 44022
Our prominence in the Protestant community and involvement in the Masonic and Eastern Star orders gives us the ability to serve the Greater Cleveland area with attention to detail and personal service.