Irene Elsa Seibt, 94, passed away peacefully in her home, surrounded by her loved ones, October 29, 2022.
Irene was born August 10, 1928 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Her parents, Max Alfred Seibt and Linda Frieda Trabschuh had emigrated to Argentina from Germany in 1920 with her 8 year old brother Helmut and sister Elfriede, four months old. Life in Germany after WW1 was extremely difficult. Her father Max desired to make a better life for his family in Argentina. He bought land, sight unseen, hoping to begin a prosperous farm. The land, although fertile, was all jungle. The family struggled there for three years and then sold the land for just enough money to return to Buenos Aires where Irene was born in 1928. They chose the name Irene, because it was the same in German and Spanish. When Irene was two, her parents had saved enough money to build their home on White Street.
Irene had a happy childhood. Her parents, of necessity, were extremely frugal, but they sought to give their youngest daughter a sense of love and comfort. They taught Irene the value of hard work and honesty. Christmas, Easter and birthdays were joyous occasions, marzipan at Christmas, flowers and a present on birthday mornings and chocolate eggs at Easter. Max took Irene to Shirley Temple movies. She picked delicious peaches in the backyard with her older sister and brother. Her best friend was Avalina, who lived next door. Irene attended public school, wearing a uniform with a big white bow in her hair. With her natural intelligence and eagerness to learn, Irene excelled at school. She spoke Spanish at school and German at home with her family. Her mother taught her to embroider at the age of 5. Each of Irene’s 7 daughters has a beautiful embroidered tablecloth that Irene created as a young girl.. She also became an excellent seamstress, everything hand sewn as they didn’t own a sewing machine.
When Irene was 8, she began attending meetings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Her parents had built an apartment above their home that they rented out to the LDS missionaries and all church meetings were held there. The missionaries invited all the children in the neighborhood to attend Primary. Irene immediately felt “at home” there,and told her parents she only wanted to go to this church from now on.
In August 1938, Irene traveled a month by ship, with her mother and sister to Germany. They stayed in her mother’s childhood home in Reichenhain, Chemnitz. It was while they were there on November 9 and 10, that the events of Kristallnacht took place. They returned to Argentina in December of that year and the War began in 1939.
On Irene’s 13th birthday, the family moved from Buenos Aires to Cordoba, Argentina. Her father had lost his job and her mother had developed severe asthma. The hope was that things would be better on the land in Cordoba. Irene begged her father to stay in Buenos Aires with her sister Elfriede so that she could finish school, but he insisted she belonged with her parents. Irene felt her life was over. She was a stellar student and had plans to go to college and become a teacher. She felt her plans were shattered and was devastated.
The 2 ½ years spent in Cordoba proved to have a profound influence on the rest of Irene’s life. The land her father bought was in the middle of nowhere. Weeks went by without seeing other people. Irene said her only friends were the pigs and chickens. They had no running water or electricity. She helped her parents build a small house, a chicken coop and an unreliable outdoor oven. At night she would read the Book of Mormon by kerosene lamp. During this time of hardship and intense loneliness, Irene gained a testimony of her Savior and His love for her. The missionaries would travel to their home about once every couple of months. Irene was baptized on January 4, 1942 in a creek on their land. For the rest of her life she would hold fast to her faith. A faith forged through adversity, a faith that gave her courage and prepared her for the life ahead.
When Irene was 15 her father consented for Irene to return to Buenos Aires with the understanding that no financial help could be given. Irene worked at a pensione from 7 in the morning to 10 at night to earn money for the train trip back to Buenos Aires. As she was only 15, no one wanted to hire her, but Irene persisted and found a job at a factory. She lived with her sister and paid for room and board. Eventually she found a job as a seamstress. Her excellent skills, learned as a child, were in demand and served her well. Irene still wanted to go to school, but never had enough time or money to do so. She made all her own clothes and saved every peso she could.
Irene attended church regularly during this time and held many callings. She taught in Sunday School and Primary. The church provided a balm for her loneliness and a compass to live by.
When Irene was 21, she was introduced to a handsome missionary serving in her area, Clarence Townsend. Her first impression was that he was nosy. Clarence was smitten with Irene. Though they had had only limited conversations, when he returned to the United States, he wrote to Irene asking her to come to America and be married. Supported and encouraged by her mother, Irene gathered her courage and agreed. The day after she arrived Irene and Clarence were married in the Salt Lake Temple on March 30, 1951. They had their first kiss the day before the wedding.
The early years of marriage were a struggle. Clarence worked many odd jobs to provide. Their first daughter Clarene, was born in 1952, with eight more children to follow. Seven daughters and two sons altogether. Clarence earned his pilot’s license and began working for the U.S Border Patrol. His job took the family to California, North Dakota, and In 1959 to El Paso, Texas where they raised their family.
Irene spent the rest of her life in service and devotion to her husband and children. Her family thrived due to her intelligent ingenuity and confident work ethic.
She learned to drive in Texas and the kids enjoyed the exciting, slightly scary experience being in the car while she drove their 1962 Edsel up the hill to our church on Sunday, lurching all the way. She spent hours sewing, converting Clarence’s cast off white shirts into matching dresses for her girls. The family always had a garden and many fruit trees. Many hours in the summer were spent by the children, helping to can the tomatoes and peaches. Irene baked countless loaves of homemade whole wheat bread. Many a cold winter afternoon, the children would come home to a house filled with the smell of homemade cinnamon rolls. Irene loved to laugh. She could never finish telling a funny story without dissolving in helpless laughter. When she first came to the states, she spoke only German and Spanish. Her English was forever spoken in her unique beautiful accent. To this day, one can’t fully do justice to an Irene story without mimicking her adorable accent.
Irene’s home was always a safe, warm haven for family, friends and visitors, for her 9 children and 53 grandchildren. She made everyone feel welcome in her soft, quiet way, and of course her language of love was to provide ample quantities of delicious food. No one was ever allowed to leave her home hungry. It wasn’t until about 10 years ago that she confessed she didn’t really like to cook!
The Gospel of Jesus Christ and her family were the most important things in Irene’s life. She loved her Heavenly Father, sought always to follow her Saviour and to be an example of His love to her children.
That once quiet, shy, slender, determined, young German girl has left behind an amazing legacy. Her beautiful posterity of 170 souls is a testament to her unbreakable spirit and courage. Though she will be incredibly missed, the beacon of Irene’s love and faith will continue to shine through generations to come.
Irene is survived by her 9 children: Clarene Hansen, Martin Townsend, Susan Anderson, Judy Olson, Debora Crockett, Scott Townsend, Kristy Taylor, Jeanne Singerman and Tamara Townsend. She was preceded in death by her husband Clarence Townsend.
A memorial service for Irene will be held Saturday, November 5, 2022 at 1 pm Harvest Park Chapel, 1068 S 1600 W Mapleton, Utah
A viewing for friends and family will be held from 11:30AM-12:30PM Harvest Park Chapel, 1068 S 1600 W Mapleton, Utah
Graveside Dedication 3:00PM-3:45PM, Wallsburg Cemetery