Irene Johnston Meckfessel
Aug 29, 1920 - Oct 10, 2013
IRENE JOHNSTON MECKFESSEL
August 29, 1920 – October 10, 2013
Resident of Carmichael
Life-long Sacramentan; Descendant of Early California Pioneers
Irene Johnston Meckfessel died in Sacramento on October 10 at the age of 93 after a series of brief illnesses related to congestive heart failure. Irene was a 4th-generation Northern Californian and life-long Sacramento area resident. She was born in a house at 2930 Q Street, since replaced by the Capital City Freeway. She had been a resident of Carmichael for the past 15 years.
Irene was descended from three lines of Early California Pioneers who traveled cross country in wagon trains. Her family ancestry reads like a history book of the Gold Rush and Western Migration, inspiring her 50-year passion for genealogy and thoroughly-researched, captivating family stories. Her paternal great-grandfather’s family lived at Sutter’s Fort in the early 1850’s. Her maternal grandmother was born at the historic William B. Ide Adobe in Red Bluff. Meckfessel family trips many years ago featured road trips to old Sacramento Valley farm houses and small town cemeteries where family members lived in the 1800’s and early 1900’s.
Irene was the daughter of Alexander F. Johnston and Winnie I. (Leavitt) Johnston. Both Irene’s father and maternal grandfather were river boat captains on the Sacramento River. Irene grew up as the youngest child and only daughter in a family of brothers, Harvey, Roy and Robert Johnston, who all predeceased her and who also worked on the river boats.
Irene graduated from McClatchy High School in 1938 and from Sacramento Junior College, with degrees in Dramatic Arts and English. She was active in student government as well as theater in lead roles in junior college productions. Many years later, she developed an intense interest and expertise in British literature, theater and history, enjoying regular trips to Ashland, Oregon for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Recently, she was enchanted with Downton Abbey and other PBS British series and could recite the history of the British Isles and her Scottish-Irish heritage without a lapse.
She served in the WAVES (US Naval Reserve) during World War II in New York City as Storekeeper Third Class in the Third Naval District. She returned to Sacramento in 1945 to resume work as an accountant, where she met her husband, Byron L. Meckfessel, CPA, in the building which currently houses The Citizen’s Hotel in downtown Sacramento. Irene and Byron were married for 40 years, until his passing in 1986. Irene worked as a part-time tax accountant in Byron’s business. They raised three children in Arden Park — Lynne, Karen and Steven. After Karen’s passing in 1981, Irene also raised her grandson, Shon.
In 1966, Irene became a kidney donor at Stanford University for her daughter Karen, with kidney transplantation being a new, risky and experimental surgery at the time. Irene’s innovative surgeon, Dr. Samuel L. Kountz, noted later that the procedure on Irene and her daughter had made medical history, for its uniqueness. For years afterward, Irene and Byron were involved with the local branch of the National Kidney Foundation, doing early detection screening in schools. Irene lived a full life, with one kidney, for 47 years after the transplant. She always encouraged organ donation, considering herself a poster child for kidney donation and being pleased that the science of kidney transplants had advanced so far.
Irene is survived by two children (Lynne Martinez of Benicia, CA and Steve Meckfessel of Alameda, CA) in addition to her grandson (Shon Meckfessel of Seattle, WA), all of whom she raised. She also leaves four other grandchildren: Joshua Martinez, Nikolas Martinez, KC Taylor and Ross Meckfessel, in addition to two great-grandchildren and cousins and nephew, David Johnston. She also leaves her good friends at The Atrium of Carmichael behind, where she spent the past happy 15 years in senior independent living.
Irene had numerous interests. Her mind was sharp and active, well into her 90’s. She was a voracious reader, loved getting her Netflix in the mail, enjoyed local outings to wine taste and visit the Charles Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, among other adventures. Irene also enjoyed trying out new ethnic restaurants and doing crosswords and jumbles daily, in the Sacramento Bee. She loved hearing tales from her children and grandchildren and their friends, as they traveled to various countries and would track their travels on maps. She was an early computer user, having bought her first computer, a Commodore 64, for grandson Shon, yet she stayed current on technology. Irene was an avid SF 49’ers fan, with expertise in football rules and scheduling her Sunday Brunch times at the Atrium around football games.
Donations in memory of Irene J. Meckfessel can be made to the National Kidney Foundation through their website.
Burial at East Lawn Sierra Hills was private. A Life Celebration for Irene Meckfessel will be held at The Atrium of Carmichael, 5757 Cypress Avenue, Carmichael, CA at 2pm on November 9, 2013.