Farming Rural 18

Irene Amelia (Nelson) Ahrenkiel

April 26, 2021 ~ January 7, 2022


Irene Amelia Ahrenkiel, age 100, passed away peacefully on Friday, January 7, 2022, in Hayward, WI.  She was born April 26, 1921, near Long Lake, Town of Sarona, WI. She was the youngest of the three daughters born to Hans and Rose Nelson.

At 7 months old, Irene’s parents moved to rural Hayward, where Hans purchased land in Hunter Township, bordering the Chippewa Flowage. They built and settled in a small log cabin. At age 7, In 1931, her family moved to Robertsdale, Alabama, to help on her uncle’s farm. Life in the segregated south was extremely challenging as a Northerner. After completing eighth grade, Irene moved to Pensacola, Florida to attend Business school.

In 1940 Irene returned to Hayward and became reacquainted with Elmer Ahrenkiel -- they soon fell in love. Irene and Elmer were married March 8, 1941, at the Congregational Church in Hayward. The young couple settled in a small apartment Elmer built above his parents’ farmhouse, where they lived until they finished building their own home. Their first child, Rose Marie, was born in 1944 and a son, James, followed in 1948. Elmer and Irene worked to keep up the family farm. For entertainment they enjoyed dancing and frequently went to the country dances at Round Lake School. 

In 1966 Elmer and Irene sold their farm and moved to Anna Marie, Florida. Irene worked at Dunaway’s Restaurant, which was owned by the parents of the famed actress Faye Dunaway.  When they returned to Wisconsin, Irene worked at Camilletti’s Italian Restaurant.  

Over the years, Irene stayed busy as a member of First Lutheran’s quilting, card making and Bible study groups, volunteering at the Hayward Hospital gift shop, sewing, embroidering, and baking.  Her family feels blessed to have had her in their lives this long and to benefit from her wisdom learned over 100 years.

She is survived by her children, Rose Marie Dignan of Coon Rapids, MN and Jim (Pam Judd) Ahrenkiel of Hayward, WI; her grandchildren, Marie (Kevin) Stockman, Kristi (Bryan) Gloppen; Laura (Terry) Bruce and Nelson (Stacie) Ahrenkiel; her great-grandchildren, Jessica, Corey, Leah, Benjamin, Heidi, Holly and Heather; her great-great-grandchildren Carson and Bella; niece Catherine, and nephews Robert and Ronald. 

Irene was proceeded in death by her parents Hans and Rose Nelson, sisters Mildred and Hazel, husband Elmer Ahrenkiel, son-in-law William Dignan.

A celebration of life will be held in the Spring. In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials to First Lutheran Church, P.O. Box 346, Hayward, WI 54843 or to Regional Hospice, 15910 W Company Lake Road, Unit 3, Hayward, WI 54843.


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