Some people called her Irene. Some called her Barbara. Some even called her Dolly, the name that appeared on her birth certificate. Everyone who ever met her, however, called her “friend.”
Irene Barbara (nee Dolly), died Saturday, March 14, just a few weeks shy of her 94th birthday, with her daughter Leigh Ann and son Gene by her side.
Born April 2nd, in Alliance, Ohio, Irene Iacovone was a force for love and compassion in an often chaotic and cynical world. At age 10, her mother, Antoneta, died, leaving Irene and her older sister Marie to care for their Italian immigrant father. After graduating from Alliance High School, she attended the West End Baptist School of Nursing in Birmingham, Alabama, and then joined the Nurses Cadet Corp during World War II. It was while dropping into a nearby drugstore to buy a tube of lipstick that Irene met a shy young man working the soda fountain, her future husband, Earl. They married and after spending a long hot summer in Birmingham, Irene charmed her new husband – some might say forced – in moving back to Ohio. “There were no jobs in Birmingham,” she would say later. For many years Irene worked as a floor nurse in a downtown Canton, Ohio hospital, and then spent five years working in the office of Drs. Graham and Adler. Later, after leaving the nursing profession, she helped run a day care center because, as she put it, “I love children.” Irene and Earl moved to Westerville in 2006 – after living more than 54 years in Canton where they were members of St. Michael’s parish – to be closer to their daughter. Eventually they moved to Parkside Village, where Earl passed away in 2014. Irene, known as Barbara (her Confirmation name) to many of her friends, was always thinking of others, donating time, money and her friendship to everyone she met. At Parkside, where she resided prior to her death, she was always welcoming newcomers, inviting them to sit with her at meals, and sharing everything she had with those in need – candy with the staff, donuts and cupcakes with other Parkside residents, even the canned peaches she so loved. “Some people aren’t as fortunate as I am,” she’d say. She was so well liked and popular that a few years ago she was crowned Queen of Parkside. As for the name confusion, Irene grew up being called, well, Irene. In Canton, she started going by Barb and many of her friends called her that. It wasn’t until she was 40 that Irene learned her given name was Dolly. Confused, her son once asked her if she was in the witness protection program, which drew a laugh as well as her favorite sharp rebuke, “Eugene, you’re too much. Just too, too much.” Whatever name she was known by, it was always followed by the words wonderful … and friend. Irene (Barbara\Dolly) Williams is survived by her daughter Leigh Ann Burdine (Ivan), son Gene Williams (Kathleen), grandsons Seth Williams (Heather), Ryan Burdine (Megan), Brandon Burdine, and great granddaughter Molly