Mrs Gustafson - Whitworth Teacher Passes

MHS Class of 1964 Classmate  News

I thought I would pass it on as she was my 5th grade teacher at Whitworth School.

John Winson

OBITUARY: Irene Joyce Begin Gustafson

93, Moscow

Posted on: Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Mrs Gustafson
Irene Joyce Begin Gustafson, 93, died peacefully on the morning of Nov. 10 at the Avalon Care Center in Pullman. Evident until the end was her sharp mind and keen spirit, her appreciation of life even in the smallest flower and her love of God.

Born on May 7, 1915 in Ellendale, N.D., to John and Valerie Begin, her family moved west when Irene was four years old. They settled in Mt. Angel, Ore., near schools and church to educate their children. Irene attended Mt. Angel Academy for Girls, and upon graduation she attended Mt. Angel Normal School where she became certified to teach in Oregon elementary schools. After receiving a B.A. Degree from the University of Washington in Seattle, in 1939, she did some of the most inspirational teaching of her long career while at Mt. Angel College, a private, Benedictine women's college.

Teaching positions were scarce in the Seattle area, and Irene gladly accepted a contract to teach social studies in a junior high school in Bothell, Wash. There she met Donald Gustafson, through one of her students, while playing badminton. They were married in 1943. Upon completion of his Ph.D. at the University of Washington, Don taught chemistry at the University of Idaho and Irene began her 32 years of teaching in Moscow's public schools.

From 1944-1956, she taught all freshman and junior English classes and the speech class at Moscow High School. In 1956, Irene transferred to teach fifth grade in the Whitworth Building and then to Lena Whitmore Elementary School until her retirement after 36 years of teaching in Idaho, Washington and Oregon. Irene felt blessed by an education and career which prepared her to live a long life happily, not merely to earn a living.

The Gustafsons fell in love with life in Idaho and chose to remain in the atmosphere of the rolling Palouse hills. They began to travel widely in the United States and abroad in 1956, and although they had no children of their own, they visited their "academic children" in Paris, Vienna, Cairo, Madrid and Sydney.

A Snoqualmie Pass cabin, designed and built by Donald (with a hand saw) was a treasured aspect of their first ten years of marriage. Donald and Irene went on to design and build their Moscow home in 1952 (this time with an electric saw). This was their home until their move to a Good Samaritan Village duplex after Donald suffered a disabling car accident in 1984. Irene cared for her husband for the next ten years. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary before his death in May of 1994.

Irene is preceded in death by her parents and five siblings. Irene is survived by nieces, a nephew in California and one nephew in Oregon.

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." — Ralph Waldo Emerson

The vigil service will be held at 7 p.m. Monday at St. Mary's Catholic Church. The funeral mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Nov. 18 at St. Mary's Catholic Church by Rev. Joseph Schmidt. A reception will follow at St. Mary's Family Center and the inurnment will be at the Moscow Cemetery.

At Irene's request, rather than flowers, memorials may be made to the Donald and Irene Gustafson Music Scholarship Fund, Gift Administration Office, P.O. Box 443147, Moscow, ID 83843 or to the Moscow Food Bank, P.O. Box 9106, Moscow, ID 83843. Arrangements have been entrusted to Short's Funeral Chapel and online condolences may be sent to


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