Anne Irene Grymonprez Bott, a devoted and dutiful daughter of God and the Catholic faith, went to heaven on March 2, 2020. Irene was a gentle welcoming kind lady who prayerfully and joyfully did her daily duties quietly and calmly serving God and her neighbors. She’d say, “Do what needs to be done. You don’t think about it. You just do it.” She never had an unkind word to say about anyone and taught “If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all.”
Her strong quiet Catholic faith was professed in word and deed. Just being around her would make you feel at peace and refreshed. Prayers were part of her daily life. She prayed her rosary daily before getting out of bed, another rosary during the day, and a third on her knees before bed; and she’d pray an extra one when she had time. She always prayed a rosary for a nice day for a loved one’s wedding day. The Angelus at 6am, 12noon, and 6pm. She’d read the lives of the saints, and daily Mass readings. Her devotional books, Bible, novenas, and rosary would be stacked along her place at the kitchen table. She learned from her Mom to keep another rosary in her apron pocket. She enjoyed having the Jehovah Witnesses over for her weekly in-home Bible study for over 30 years.
Irene never complained about anything and say “it could be worse.” Her glass was always overflowing and found joy and smiles in small things. She kept her bird feeder outside the kitchen window and make up cute stories about the animals. Irene wrote daily a little letter to her newly married daughter, Mary Anne, living in Germany. She’d draw little cartoons in her letters and then send them with a couple dollars, which Mary Anne was overjoyed to receive. Mary Anne would reread the letters and buy some fresh fruit. Mom said, “It isn’t much, but she knows I’m thinking of her.” Later Mary Anne said they were living very meagerly and this was a treasure to her. You never know what a simple good deed can mean to someone.
Whenever someone was upset or complaining, Irene would say, “Just don’t think about it. Think about something else, think about something nice.” She’d divert their attention to all the good things and they’d leave feeling happier and hopeful. When she was moving from living in her little house for over 10 years, we discovered her bedroom light didn’t work. When asked why she never said anything, she replied, “It’s ok, I plugged in a lamp.”
She was a living, loving example of the goodness of the Catholic faith and how to live the Christian life. She was born September 27, 1919 and graduated from SS. Peter & Paul Catholic High School in Saginaw in 1937. After graduating as an Accountant and Secretary from Saginaw Business Institute, Irene worked at Diamond Oil for 13 years. Frank and Irene married May 9, 1953 and Irene truly took pleasure and comfort in being a homemaker and raising their girls. She worked at United Way of Saginaw County for a few years when the girls went to high school.
Irene witnessed the evolving of our nation at some of its most desperate times and recounted stories of these trial, yet with a conquering hope and faith that persevered over everything. Irene was born just after The Great War 1914-1918 (World War I) and listened to the concerns of her parents as they were far away from family and especially those of her father, who immigrated from West Flanders, Belgium where his countrymen were killed in the Trench of Death. Her family sent continual prayers to all those as they defended themselves, not knowing who was alive or dead among family and friends until after the war.
Irene was a young girl during the Great Depression (1929-1939) witnessing people’s struggles, starving, losing everything even their families. She told how men would walk out to her family’s farm and work all day for a bag of potatoes or whatever food they could earn so they had something to take home for their own family to eat that day. Her mother would always keep a big pot of soup on the coal stove for these suffering people and give comfort, hope and reassurance with a bowl of hot soup and bread. During World War II (1939—1945) so many of her classmates died, as she helped with the war effort. Meatless Tuesdays along with meatless Fridays, sugar and other food rationing, victory gardens, gas and oil rationing, USO, collecting tires, prayer vigils, so many efforts to provide for the soldiers and the freedom of Europe over the tyranny and evil of Nazism and Socialism. Family members told of the horrors of the war... Nazi Germany experimenting, torturing, exterminating, starving people who were Jews, Catholics, or those helping the Jews. Unbelievably another war came (World War II) and fervently praying for their family in Belgium and France, and all the young men she went to school with who went off to war.
Irene saw the invention of things we take for granted. She would tell stories of how people thought the airplane would fall out of the sky, or that electricity would burn down houses, or the invention of the automobile and concern of cars going so fast they’d suck the air out of your lungs. The wonders of water inside houses without a hand pump; heating a home without coal or wood; baths without a tub by the stove and not having to heat the water on the stove, not having to pump water outside and try to thaw it out during the winter; a washing machine and clothes dryer without scrubbing in a pan and hanging clothes next to the stove to dry; TV and vcrs, cds, dvds, telephones, microwaves (which she never trusted and wouldn’t use). So many talks of fascinating tales of yesteryears. She loved her little sister Dora and how they would giggle, go swimming after working in the fields and gardens, do prayers as a family before bed. They would always give you a nice “smootch” whenever you’d see them or say goodbye. Life was a lot simpler when Irene was young and family and faith were your treasure.
Money never mattered to Irene. Faith, family, friends brought her joy. Doing things together was what was important and it didn’t matter if it was having fun or working. “Just as long as we can be together,” she’d say. It didn’t matter who showed up, just set another place at the table, there’ll be plenty enough to go around. She’d just open up a few more canning jars of good things to eat and put her tiny coffee pot on the stove which never seemed to go empty. Irene welcomed many diverse people into her kitchen with a cup of coffee and a treat of usually her homemade jams. She looked forward to the various people who would stop by to either buy eggs or talk about Jesus. The Jehovah Witnesses were always welcome and Mom would look forward to her weekly in-home bible study which lasted 50 years. Family would stop by to visit and receive friendship, a treat, and a cup of coffee from the never-ending tiny old coffee pot that was on the stove and only supposed to be a 2 cupper but somehow managed to continually pour. Her house wasn’t clean, but it was filled with love.
There wasn’t any stress around Irene. She didn’t let things or people get to her. Sometimes she’d say, “What’s the matter with you?” when you didn’t behave like you’re supposed to. Or “You don’t want to be a dumb head” when you didn’t want to study. When someone did behave badly “They’re odd” and that was that. When kids were bouncing off walls, “Go outside and work” she’d give you a job to do and say “Kids have more energy that you do, they need to burn it off. It’s good for them and they get things done.” No one ever complained of being bored. Irene used her “simple wisdom” that seems to have disappeared in these days of electronics for companions instead of people.
Irene volunteered in different ways. She was a member of Saginaw Co. Home Extension for over 30 years and secretary to her local Ring Group, her monthly minutes from the meeting being published in the small local paper. Occasionally, Irene didn’t let not having a car stop her from her mission, she’d walk the two miles, if it was going to church or playground lady or volunteering. She dutifully collected donations every year by walking miles for the American Cancer Society in honor of her mother who died from throat cancer, and the American Heart Association in honor of her father, who died from a heart attack. She taught sewing for 4-H in St. Charles for many years. She was the noon-duty playground lady at St. Mary’s Catholic School and her calm pleasant way had little children gravitate to her, holding her hand or follow her around the playground as she oversaw the big kids playing ball or the younger ones on the merry go round, teeter totters, swings, or playing hide and seek or tag with the statue of Mary on the tall stone base as the “free” spot. She also helped as the school’s substitute teacher whenever Mrs. Kirby would have her yearly baby. Irene volunteered for years as a typist/secretary for the school and parish office “whenever they need me.”
Irene was the family historian and with her cousins from France, Jean and Irene Savy, they charted her father’s tree into the 1700’s. She was 100% Belgium and proudly say, “You are Belgium before anything else.” As a young girl she could write, read, and speak French and Flemish; and kept in contact with relatives in Europe. She was so happy and excited when Frank and her went to Europe to visit them and Jean, their first grandchild. She got to see all the places her parents had told her about in their stories of the old country. Her Dad, Julius, had immigrated to the USA and never got a chance to return for a visit but told her many stories of “back home” in Belgium, which she got to now see. She spoke of all the wonderful windmills in Belgium, the family farm that has stayed in his family for 400+ years, and the welcoming families who opened their homes and hearts during their visit.
Irene played the piano eloquently, and her fingers would gently fly across the entire keyboard as she played classical, country, or religious music. Irene’s mother, Mary Emma, played the piano by ear. Irene told how the neighbors would come over and bring instruments to join in. They’d push the table out of the way and have a jam session. Her dad would bring out his homemade root beer for the kids and homemade beer for the men. Irene took piano lessons for over 12 years. She loved to play and taught her daughter, Mary Anne. Mary Anne also loved to play and would “honkytonk” it up. Mary Anne taught her daughter, Jean, and Jean continued teaching the love of music to her children. Irene also played the accordion. Irene made sure her daughters took accordion lessons at SMS school with Mr. Carl Sandburg, and when she didn’t have a car, she’d either take the tractor or carry the heavy accordion down the railroad tracks a mile to SMS school. Irene enjoyed music and listening to country music. We had one TV and we’d all watch together the old cowboy shows, Lawrence Welk, Disney, Red Skelton, or whatever Dad wanted to watch. TV was for when you came home from school and could watch while you did homework, at night after supper, or had a chore to do like fold clothes or pick over veggies and fruit.
Frank always had a huge garden and Irene canned about 1000 jars a year. They wouldn’t depend on the economy or someone else to provide for them and proudly fill the table with good things from the garden. They enjoyed sharing their bounty with all who stopped by. During the harvest months, you could be sure Dad would put grocery bags of veggies in your car. He loved “digging in the dirt” and “making things grow.” While it was snowing and blowing in the winter, he was getting his seed order together and planning the garden.
Irene didn’t let things bother her. She’d quietly say her prayers. She’d say “it makes me sad” when a loved one passed away, or “I’m the only one left from my family.” Irene would comment, “I miss my sister” or “I miss my Mom and Dad” or another loved one. She would then usually tell stories about them and it would ease the loneliness.
She thoughtfully spent hours writing Christmas cards or notes to family and friends. Irene could read, write, and speak French and it was a treasured memory when she visited relatives in France and Belgium when she got to see her Jean Anne in Germany. She cared about others and what was happening in their lives. Irene enjoyed all the notes back and saved them. Irene’s trip to the Holy Land was something she’d wanted to do her whole life and surprised everyone when she declared she was going. She’d remark how it made all those places in the Bible “come alive” when she’d read her Bible daily.
Even in Irene’s years in a nursing home, her smile and sweet disposition was a welcome addition to the staff and residents. Her presence has always been smiling, sweet, kind, and welcoming calmness. People would comment on how Irene was the nicest person they ever knew. She was referred to as “our family’s living saint.” She’d laugh and say, “You know, my mother really was one!”
Irene is survived by her loving daughter, Maureen (Michael) Bott Weaver; son-in-law, Edward Faber; grandchildren, Jean (Robert) Smith, Jacqueline (Scott) Kleis, Jason Faber, Jessica (Chris) Miller, Jacob (Ashley) Faber, Susan (Joey) Patrick, Melanie Weaver (fiancé Dan Robbins), and Michael (Jasmine) Weaver; 18 great-grandchildren, Edward Nooney, Kaylee Smith, Kaden Smith, Jordyn Kleis, Alexzandria Kleis, Nickelas Kleis, Paige Faber, Kennedy Miller, Lukas Miller, Tessa Faber, Logan Faber, Elizabeth Weaver, Dakota Lubbers, Rebecca Weaver, and Emma Weaver; and soon, Dakota Robbins, Hunter Robbins, Kylah Larson, Hannah Weaver, and Eve Weaver. She was preceded in death by her beloved husband, Frank; her precious “big girl” daughter, Mary Anne (Bott) Faber; a grandson, Justin Faber; beloved parents, Julius and Mary Grymonprez; a wonderful sister, Doris (Joe) Stec; dear father-in-law and mother-in-law, Frank and Viola Bott; in-laws, Marvin (Eleanor) Bott, Frances (Ezra) Moore, Carl Bott, and Roland Bott; and many loving family members and friends.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 11:00 a.m. Thursday, March 5, 2020 at Mary of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, 708 Sanderson Street, St Charles. Her visitation will be from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Wednesday at Misiuk Funeral Home of Chesaning and then Thursday morning at the church from 10:00 a.m. until time of the Mass at 11:00 a.m. A Rosary will be prayed Wednesday evening at 7:00 p.m. at the funeral home. Burial will follow at St. Mary’s Cemetery in St. Charles.
You may light a memorial candle or share a memory at misiukfuneralhome.com.
Misiuk Funeral Home